Training camps haven’t even opened for NHL teams and the San Jose Sharks already need to issue an injury report. Newly acquired Martin Havlat is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, Antti Niemi had a cyst removed, and Antero Niittymaki is trying to figure out what’s wrong with his groin. Aren’t teams supposed to wait until roster players officially take the ice before they start telling the media they have some players who are dinged-up?
The goaltending situation is a mixed bag for GM Doug Wilson and the Sharks. The good news is that starting netminder Anti Niemi’s procedure was relatively minor and he shouldn’t miss much practice at all. Obviously, it’s better to have something like this done in the offseason and miss a practice or two than to miss a week or two during the season.
Unfortunately, the news isn’t as positive for back-up goaltender Antero Niittymaki. He’s had groin problems stretching back to last season—and injury that has not healed as the organization would have hoped. Doug Wilson spoke to David Pollack of the Mercury News about Niittymaki’s tenuous situation:
“We’ve exhausted all the conservative therapy that we’ve had with him. There’s a procedure that can get him pain-free so we’re supportive of that. If that procedure takes place, he’ll be out for probably 12 weeks or so.”
Since Niittymaki could be out for the first two months of the season, there will be a battle in training camp for the back-up spot. Thomas Griess is under contract for two more seasons, but spent last year in the Swedish Elite League. Aside from Griess, the Sharks a handful of goaltending prospects: Tyler Sexsmith, Alex Stalock, Narri Sateri, and Thomas Heemskerk within their system. The good news is that goaltending is the strength of their organizational depth. The bad news is that we are talking about the Sharks goaltending depth on September 15. Then again, there’s no rule that says the Sharks can’t play Niemi for the first 30 games of the season.
Then there’s Martin Havlat. Havlat injured his shoulder at the end of last season while playing for the Czech Republic. He had surgery while he was still a member of the Minnesota Wild—the injury and procedure were disclosed to the Sharks before the Heatley trade. He’s been working out over the course of the summer as he looks to increase strength in the injured shoulder. Regardless, he’s been skating and is already in good shape for training camp. Havlat, Wilson, nor the Sharks training staff will commit to a timetable for his return, yet all agree that this is a shorter-term injury and shouldn’t affect the season. Things could be worse.
Things obviously could be worse. Niemi and Havlat shouldn’t miss any of the regular season and the serious injury is to a player who only plays 4-5 times per month. Still, someone needs to tell the Sharks that they’re supposed to wait until after the season starts before they start scaring their fans with injury reports.