Our All-Hurt All-Star team selection continues with the blueliners most skilled at getting hurt. They key is not just quantity – quality plays a big role as well. Torn ACL? Whatever. We’ve got poisonous snakes! Torn Achilles tendons! Testicles! Even injuries to players who aren’t Sami Salo! This is a selection of defencemen (or defensemen if you’re American) whose net defence skills are far, far superior to their ability to defend their own delicate bodies.
Mike Green - Washington Capitals
In addition to having interesting taste in vehicles (oh sure, you were taking the scooter to a charity auction, mmm hmm), Mike Green has a stunning inability to stay healthy. When he is healthy he’s dangerous with a puck. The rest of the time he’s just dangerous. Remember 2008-09 and 2009-10 when he led defencemen in points? He probably doesn’t either, because he’s too busy having abdominal surgery just two games after coming back from a sprained ankle and a groin issue.
It’s no secret to anyone who’s ever played any sport that the groin is great big jerk. Mike Green’s groin is such a jerk that it turned out to be the reason he needed that abdominal surgery. Green has a sports hernia – a pretty annoying injury that’s common in hockey. ‘Sports hernia’ is actually a blanket term for a few different specific groin-type problems, but the upshot is the muscles of the lower abdominal wall become weak, and things start to hurt (groin-type things). Part of diagnosing a sports hernia is a digital exam. Yes, that’s an exam using a finger. In the groin. Deep in the groin. How deep? See that thing labeled “inguinal canal” in the picture below? The doc’s finger has to weasel its way up there to feel the lowermost end of that canal (because in a sports hernia, that’s dilated). Without going into any further awful detail, let’s just make clear that the words “invert the scrotum” were used when I learned how to do this. Let’s also make clear that I am very, very sorry in advance for every single time I have to do this for the rest of my life.
Normal (non-NHL) people usually take 8-10 weeks to recover from this type of surgery (where mesh is used to reinforce the weak area). The Caps are anticipating Green’s return in about 4-6 weeks, hopefully for more than two games. Good luck with that.
Carlo Colaiacovo - St. Louis Blues
I was looking through notes I’d taken in preparation for this post, and all I had written down for Colaiacovo was “Always hurt.” That pretty much covers it. In a nutshell:
- 2001: Drafted by the Maple Leafs.
- 2002-2007: Played in 101 NHL games. That’s 101 games in five seasons. That’s an average of 20 games per season. In fairness, he spent a lot of time in the OHL at the beginning there, but come on – His high point was 48 games in 2006-07. Injury highlights? A temporary hearing loss in 2004 from a puck to the ear, a concussion in January of 2006 that finished him for the season, and assorted knee and groin problems in 2007.
- 2008: Traded with Alex Steen to the Blues for Lee Stempniak. Quit laughing, that’s not funny. Okay, yes it is.
- 2008-now: Buckle your seatbelts. Are you ready to be blown away? Three almost-complete seasons since he went to St Louis. The occasional issue came up – hip, concussion, puck in the eye resulting in temporary blindness (note he now wears a visor)… He missed the end of November with a hamstring problem, but he’s managed to not suck this year.
Andrei Markov - Montreal Canadiens
Where to begin? How about here: Are we sure this guy actually plays for the Canadiens? Because I’ve been watching hockey for a long time, and I’m not convinced I’ve ever actually seen him play. Okay, fine, that’s probably unfair. He was around (and pretty good) until the start of the 2009 season, when he began a string of injuries leading to my questioning his very existence.
The first one was truly strange – a lacerated ankle in the third period of the first game of the season from being struck by Carey Price’s skate. It wasn’t a lacerated achilles as was first speculated, but was equally spectacular and sucky. The official word was that he’d lacerated a tendon in the front of his ankle and would be out for four months. Here’s the thing about the front of the ankle. There’s three tendons up there, and all of them are pretty important:
You can see that the tendons are attached to things you use a lot. You know, like your toes. The tendons and their associated muscles are responsible for dorsiflexing the foot – meaning bringing your toes closer to your shin (the opposite of pointing them). Now get up and walk around a bit. Did a lot of dorsiflexion there, right? So obviously several any of those tendons would be a big problem for anyone who wanted to be able to walk (skate) effectively. The fix is a surgical repair – either just suturing the ends back together or using a graft from elsewhere. The recovery time is generally a solid four to six months, with the first month (at least) spent immobilized in a cast. Apparently Markov doesn’t believe in a long convalescence, because he was back in two months.
All seemed well until the Eastern Conference semis against the Penguins, where an awkward fall after a hit from Lady Byng candidate Matt Cooke resulted in a right knee injury. An ACL repair finished his 2009-10 season. Once he came back (partway into the 2010-11 season), he lasted seven games before getting reinjured in a knee-on-knee collision with Eric Staal. Another surgery reconstructed his already-repaired ACL and repaired his meniscus (cartilage pads in the knee joint that distribute weight and reduce friction). 2010-11: Write-off. Everything remained quiet until June of 2011, when Markov signed a great big three-year 17.5 million dollar contract with the Habs. Money unfortunately doesn’t buy recovery, proven by the joint effusion Markov had to have drained. Fluid can collect in joints (that’s what an effusion is) due to injury or overuse. In Markov’s case, he said he’d “worked too hard” in the offseason. In mid-November of this season Markov was seen skating, and several people dropped dead of shock (not really). Then in early December Markov had another knee procedure, and nobody dropped dead of shock (really). He had a minor procedure to clean up debris in the joint and is now expected back after the All-Star Game. If you’re the betting type, do not put any money on this.
Sami Salo – Vancouver Canucks
Sami Salo is the obvious winner of the injury lottery for defencemen, having gone well into double digits on injuries to a variety of body parts. The amazing thing is that he’s still played more than 60 games a season for all but one year since joining the Canucks in 2002-03. I can’t go into detail about every single one of Salo’s injuries because The Score’s servers will crash and I’ll still be sitting here typing until I’m eligible for retirement. He’s had all the usual hockey stuff – groin problems, shoulder surgery, back spasms (no pancakes involved), along with some very unusual stuff – a broken rib in 2008 that cost him 15 games, a torn butt muscle in 2009, and a torn achilles tendon in July of 2010 (while playing floorball, which I’ll be avoiding). His two most popular (terrible choice of words) injuries have to be a snakebite from Finland’s only venomous snake (the common European adder) in 2000, and a testicle injury from a Duncan Keith slapshot in the 2010 playoffs. It turns out he didn’t actually rupture his testicle, but honestly who cares because SLAPSHOT IN THE TESTICLE.
Salo is currently out after a Brad Marchand clip that led to a concussion (and a 5-game suspension for Marchand). He’s skated a couple times on his own, but not much else. Certainly no floorball.
Erik Johnson – Colorado Avalanche (honourable mention)
A special mention must be made for Johnson, who missed all of 2008-09 after tearing ligaments in his right knee by catching his foot between the gas and brake of a golf cart. Awesome.
Next up for the All-Hurt All-Stars: Forwards! Feel free to share your nominations in the comments or via twitter (@JoNana). And once again, a friendly reminder that Rick DiPietro and Sami Salo are ineligible for nomination in multiple categories.