The Montreal Canadiens are playing well tonight (currently up 4-0 against the Detroit Red Wings), but the bottom line is that the big picture has been ugly. Losing team captain Brian Gionta added another injury to the insults, but he spoke to the media for the first time since what seemed to be season-ending bicep surgery today.
The most interesting thing he said was that the surgery might not end his 2011-12 campaign after all, although that could just be blind optimism:
Would it really be worth it for him to come back if Montreal remains trapped in the Eastern Conference cellar? Maybe not, but you get the feeling that Gionta is having trouble watching his team struggle from the sidelines.
The Columbus Blue Jackets have been hard by a lot of things – reality, the brutal Central Division and Western Conference – but injuries rank pretty high on that list.
Losing Jeff Carter and James Wisniewski for extended amounts of time obviously garners the headlines, but they’ve been without a 20-minute-per-game for most of 2011-12 and he won’t be back again. The Blue Jackets announced that Radek Martinek will sit out the rest of this season because of his concussion issues.
Considering the fact that Martinek only appeared in seven games, it might be a stretch to say that Brett Lebda has been signed to “replace” him in the lineup, but one can look at Lebda’s one-year deal that way. To some long-suffering Blue Jackets fans, the signing of Lebda adds salt to their wounds because he’s been a scapegoat of a blueliner in his other shaky NHL stops.
Either way, these stories are all too typical for the woeful Blue Jackets, who cannot be blamed if they decide to “Fail for Nail/Mikhail” for the rest of this season.
Flyers fans’ worst fear has been confirmed: the team just announced that Chris Pronger will sit out the rest of the season and playoffs because of severe post-concussion syndrome. Here’s the official statement:
“After consultation with respected concussion specialists Dr. Joseph Maroon and Dr. Micky Collins, it is the opinion of both doctors that Chris is suffering from severe post-concussion syndrome. It is the recommendation of Doctors Maroon and Collins that Chris not return to play for the Philadelphia Flyers for the remainder of the 2011-12 season or playoffs. Chris will continue to receive treatment and therapy with the hope that he can get better.”
Obviously, this is an enormous blow to the Flyers. A healthy Pronger is a huge difference-maker. That much was evident in the 2010 playoffs when the team came two wins short of a Stanley Cup despite interchanging between Brian Boucher and Michael Leighton in net. You can make a reasonable argument that Pronger deserved a Conn Smythe nod on three different occasions, so there’s no doubt he’ll be sorely missed.
The bigger worries go beyond this season, though. Pronger has a 35+ contract, so Philly will be on the hook for his $4.92 million cap hit through 2016-17 even if he retires. In a way, it seems like his health collapsed the second that regrettable deal became valid in 2010-11.
Hopefully Pronger will come back healthy – eventually – but considering his rugged style and severe mileage, his big-picture outlook is grim.