Tag: injury prone players


Rick DiPietro might just have his health back


Unfortunately, there are plenty of NHL players with a reputation for being injury prone. It’s tough not to daydream about how outstanding Marian Gaborik’s career would be if the league could “turn injuries off” like a video game. (Don’t even get hockey fans started about the likes of Bobby Orr, Peter Forsberg, Pat LaFontaine and Eric Lindros.)

People generally use a sympathetic (or at least disappointed) tone when they discuss oft-injured players, but most comments about New York Islanders goalie Rick DiPietro lean toward jokes. Obviously, his absurdly long and ill-fated contract has a lot to do with it, but let there be no doubt that injuries play a role in his career becoming a sad punchline.

At this point, it almost seems natural to assume that the Islanders duo might be Al Montoya and Evgeni Nabokov (with the possibility of a push from prospect Kevin Poulin). The thing is, the Islanders are locked in to a $4.5 million annual cap hit with DiPietro* on a contract that runs through 2020-21, so they have plenty of reasons to give him a chance to earn playing time.

Surely DiPietro’s started the last few seasons thinking that “this would be the one” in which things pan out. The difference this time, however, is that he claims that he went into this summer healthy after years of surgery.

After so many season-ending injuries in years past, DiPietro actually went into this summer healthy.

“I feel good,” DiPietro said. “I think this is the first summer in six years I didn’t have to have surgery.”

DiPietro played in 26 games in 2010-11, which was actually a big step up from playing just 5 in 08-09 and 8 in 09-10. Unfortunately, his numbers weren’t as uplifting as his increase in appearances; he wen 8-14-4 with a 3.44 GAA and an abysmal .886 save percentage.

The 30-year-old goaltender might argue that part of his struggles came from shaky health, though. The Islanders and DiPietro’s hope is that he can regain the form he found in three seasons from 2005-06 to 07-08, when he made one All-Star Game and played 188 games while putting up solid numbers. Around that time, DiPietro’s contract seemed risky rather than borderline insane.

Some might think that you’d be crazy to read too much into the optimism surrounding DiPietro’s health, but it would certainly be an amazing story if things worked out after a rough few years.

* – Naturally, he could retire, have his cap hit buried in the minors or be placed on the long-term injured reserve here and there. Still, chances are, they’ll be committed to him for quite some time.

Sheldon Souray looks to fit in with Stars

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Of all of the free agent signings on July 1st, Sheldon Souray’s deal with the Dallas Stars may be one of the more fascinating deals. Most people know that Souray and his contract were sentenced to the AHL last season; NHL teams wouldn’t even sign the veteran blueliner as he passed through waivers. When the Oilers cut ties with Souray this summer making him a free agent, Stars stepped up to give Studly Wonderbomb a chance to show that he still can play at the NHL level. Perhaps more importantly, they gave him the chance to show that he can stay healthy for an entire 82-game NHL season.

Not surprisingly, Souray is already in Dallas preparing for his new coach with his new team. He took the time to talk to Mark Stepneski after skating at the Dallas Stars practice facility:

“I just hope to come in here and complement them, whether it’s playing big and using my size and my experience. If I get a chance to play some special teams, chip in there. I am just looking to jell with the group early. They’ve got guys who have been here for a while, guys who know what the systems are and what the organization is like. I think with a new coach we all start on a new page a little bit. There’s a canvas that needs to be painted and I want to be one of the guys that helps all the guys. I may be the oldest guy here now.”

Even though the Stars have Stephane Robidas, Alex Goligoski, Trevor Daley, and Nicklas Grossman who are all slated for big-time minutes next season, a guy with Souray’s skill-set will receive every opportunity to make the team. He (and his shot) will be a welcomed addition to a team that will desperately need to find alternative sources of scoring after watching Brad Richards leave for New York.

The Stars are gambling that Souray can find the consistency (and health) that helped him score 23 goals and 53 points in the full season he was healthy (2008-09). Dallas Stars blog DefendingBigD.com is hoping for the best:

With Souray being so motivated to prove that he still “has it”, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a comeback year for Souray. That chip on Souray’s shoulders is the key here — a motivated player is exactly what the Stars want as he will be determined to contribute wherever possible, whenever possible. Souray is signed for one season, so if the Stars-Souray experiment does not play out on the optimistic side, the team has given some veteran experience to their relatively young defense while not overcommitting time or money.

When he’s at his best, Souray is a defenseman who can score from the point, play a physical style of game, and stick up for his teammates. More precisely, he’s at his best when he’s actually on the ice (not in the pressbox). If Souray can stay healthy for 82 games this season, the move has the potential to be one of the better bargain signings of the offseason. Even if he isn’t the player that he was a few years ago, the Stars still have defensemen that can log major minutes while Souray fills in as a third-pairing defenseman.

If the Stars get the motivated and healthy player they think they signed, Souray could be a perfect fit in Dallas.

Sami Salo faced a long, painful road to that two-goal Game 4 performance

Sami Salo
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Considering how improbable it was for the Vancouver Canucks to score three 5-on-3 goals in a two minute span, perhaps it only makes sense that the last two of those goals came from such an improbable source.

There were more than a few times this season when many people though Sami Salo’s 13-year NHL career was over. Salo himself pondered retirement during the painful recovery process from a ruptured Achilles tendon. In many ways, Salo has been the Wile E. Coyote of hockey players, stumbling through injuries that have been random, painful and … yes, a bit comical (see: testicle, ruptured left).

As rough and fast a sport as hockey is, Salo has been one of those guys who just cannot catch a break, unless it’s in the more literal “broken bone” sense. Just take a look at how Salo suffered that ruptured Achilles tendon last summer, as he told Mark Spector of Sportsnet.ca.

“It’s a routine we have. We play every Thursday floor ball (in Finland), a very popular sport in Scandinavia. All the guys from all over Europe. I got a D-to D-pass, took a hard sprint, and just flew face first. Nobody was even close. I just fell down. The Achilles had ruptured. Somebody said it sounded like a shotgun.

“Went to the private clinic, where the doctor said it was most likely completely torn.”

It’s easy to treat Salo like a walking, hard-shooting punchline. Yet after you hear more about his resiliency in the face of a demoralizing and painful injury, it’s also easy to root for the Finnish blueliner.

“It is like climbing Mount Everest,” he said. “Very small steps from Day 1 after the surgery, all the way up to the time in December when I started skating. You didn’t see any progress on a daily basis, even sometimes on a weekly basis.

“When it actually happened it wasn’t painful at all. It was just a weird feeling.”

Then again, maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that Salo remains borderline unflappable. He fashioned an outstanding NHL career for himself despite long odds. A 13-year career isn’t half-bad for the 239th overall pick of the 1996 NHL Entry Draft and two power-play goals in one game isn’t too shabby for a guy who wasn’t far from retirement, either.

Perhaps the biggest question might be: would he injure himself while lifting the Stanley Cup? We might just get the chance to find out.

Ales Hemsky injures his right shoulder, expected to miss up to 10 games

Bruins Oilers Hockey

While pundits drooled about what his point-per-game potential could bring to a Stanley Cup contending team, I couldn’t help but wonder why so few talking heads discussed just how ridiculously injury prone Edmonton Oilers winger Ales Hemsky is.

Hemsky only played 22 games during the 2009-10 season after a left shoulder injury forced him to undergo surgery. This time around, the slick passer injured his right shoulder thanks to a hit by Nashville Predators rookie defenseman John Blum. The team estimates that he’ll miss two to three weeks with the injury, but on the bright side, coach Tom Renney thinks that “it’s a rotator cuff thing, but it’s not torn.”

He’s already missed 18 games in 10-11 with a litany of chronic injuries.

I used to call Marian Gaborik the Wile E. Coyote of the NHL, but Hemsky might just take his place. Hemsky continues to chase that Road Runner of health, yet misfortune (and a penchant for putting himself in harm’s way) keep leading him to crash head-first into injury traps.

When people discuss injury ravaged players such as the NBA’s Yao Ming, they discuss the notion that some athletes aren’t built for 82-game seasons. Maybe that’s just the sad truth with Hemsky.

Kings make big move … internally, by signing Justin Williams to four-year, $16.6M extension

Justin Williams, Jarret Stoll

There are plenty of NHL general managers on the hot seat today, but if there’s one contending manager who might be trying the patience of his fans, it would be Dean Lombardi of the Los Angeles Kings. We doubt that this move will quench that thirst, but the Kings did make a big move (only from the inside) today by signing forward Justin Williams to a four-year, $14.6 million extension according to Bob McKenzie.

It’s unclear at this point how the salary years will be stacked, but his annual cap hit will be $3.65 million per year beginning in the 2011-12 season. This signing signals a small raise for the winger, as his previous cap hit was $3.5 million.

In a way, Williams might be the prototypical Kings winger. The former Philadelphia Flyers draft pick can skate, score goals and plays a versatile game, but there’s one huge caveat: he’s notoriously injury prone.

While he’s having a great season this year (20 goals and 29 assists for 49 points in a stunning 62 games played, 100 percent of the Kings’ contests), he only played in 49 games last season, 44 in 08-09 and 37 in 07-08.

The Kings are a team noted for their star-crossed history with talented players who cannot stay on the ice, so it’s disturbing that they’re placing such a big part of their future on such unstable ground. Can they really trust that one healthy season (in a contract year no less) is a more reliable indicator of the future than the previous three?

It would be great if Williams plays most of the available games in those seasons. Yet much like Marian Gaborik and former Kings forward Pavol Demitra, his most ideal existence might be in the world of video games, where that injury problem can simply be turned off.