Like me, I know you've been sitting in the corner rocking back and forth anxiously awaiting the return of our beloved sport. Summer men's leagues at your local rink don't really do it for you, and watching your own child skate around in his (or her) new pads may bring you some pride and joy. But honestly nothing fills a hockey fan's heart like the real deal.
Adding a new chance to win the office Fantasy hockey pool probably adds to the love, but hockey is still the main reason we're here people. We all know that winning the hockey pool takes more than a love for the sport. You actually need to know what's going on, what prospects are worth putting some hope in, what veterans may be past their prime and who may be too hurt to be worth their salary.
Marian Gaborik, RW, Rangers: Gaborik underwent a successful surgery to repair the labrum in his right shoulder June 6. Labral tears are repaired arthroscopically -- this means the surgery was minimally invasive and helps to eliminate the chances of large non-healing incisions or an infection which can cause major recovery time setbacks. Inside the incisions, the surgeon uses a small camera to find the labral tear and identify the type of tear in the labrum. (The Rangers don't feel the need to release the type of labral tear Gaborik had, and in the end it doesn't matter nor does it affect recovery time, so on we go.) The surgeon would have then applied suture anchors to sew the labrum back into place within the shoulder socket. Recovery and rehabilitation time will equal about five to six months. This means Gaborik will be missing in action until at least November. Even though he'll be gone for at least the first third of the season, I wouldn't write him off completely. With 82 games last season, Gaborik picked up 41 goals and 34 assists and ended with a plus-15 rating. After completing his rehab stint and finally making a comeback to the ice, Gaborik should be just as good (if not better) than he was last year.
Ryan Kesler, C, Canucks: Kesler knows just how Gaborik is feeling. Kesler underwent the same shoulder surgery just a month before and is looking at a solid six months or more of recovery time. Kesler rushed back last season, returning only three months after hip surgery. He was plagued with hip flexor issues and never really returned to 100 percent, netting just 22 goals and having 27 assists in his 77 games this past season (down from 40 goals in 2010-11). Rehabilitation will be strenuous and tough on the Canucks center, as the trainers will have him working through range of motion, strengthening, and then finally adding in hockey specific skills in a few months. Kesler has said he won't even think about returning until he's at 110 percent, even if that has him starting as late as December. When Kesler returns happier and healthier we can only hope that he returns with better stats than last season.
Derek Roy, C, Stars: Acquiring Roy from Buffalo seemed like a smart decision on Dallas' part, until the news of him having shoulder surgery putting him out until November came out. It can't be a large surprise to anyone that Roy had been playing injured for a while and honestly it makes sense when you look at his disappointing stats from last year, playing in 80 games and netting only 16 goals with 27 assists, and ending with a minus-7. After starting the season with an injured hamstring that greatly affected his skating, he dislocated his shoulder on the ice. During the rest of the season Roy got to experience his shoulder dislocating on a regular basis. The medical staff in Buffalo, at the time, didn't see this as an issue and let him continue for the rest of the season while they used different rehab techniques to eliminate pain and strengthen his labrum and the surrounding structures in his shoulder (it didn't help). After the trade to Dallas, a MRI was done and Roy's labrum was all damaged. Roy is now recovering from posterior labrum surgery. This is an arthroscopically done surgery that consists of the surgeon anchoring the posterior portion of the labrum back to the bone. If proper healing and rehab times are put in place and actually followed (maybe Ryan Kesler will be able to take a page from this book) then Roy should be better than ever. As of right now Roy is in a sling, even while he sleeps, for the next three weeks. It may be annoying and uncomfortable, but it is one more step towards him getting back on the ice and racking up more points come November.
Mark Fayne, D, Devils: New Jersey's Fayne underwent wrist surgery (June 22) to repair his scapholunate ligament. This ligament holds two wrist (carpal) bones together and significantly helps wrist stability. Normally this injury is caused by a hyperextension of the wrist, which can be caused by a large number of things like falling on your hand, doing push-ups or punching someone in the face incorrectly (and because we don't know exactly how it happened, I'm taking it upon myself to assume it was the latter). There are a few different ways his wrist could have been repaired, including wrist arthroscopy (going in and debriding the ligament, then suturing it back together) or stabilizing the bones with pins. I don't pretend to know what the Devils' blueliner underwent, but the recovery time should be about the same in either case, lasting about 3-4 months. That puts him within a timeline to return to play around September, but I would watch out for him and any continued issues concerning stick control or puck handling. With 82 games played last season Fayne had four goals, 14 assists, and a minus-4 rating, and ended with 36 penalty minutes.
Ilya Kovalchuk, LW, Devils: Another Devil I suggest to watch out for come draft time. It's the beginning of July and the team is slowly acquiring second and third opinions on Kovalchuk's "herniated disc" problem. No one seems to be able to answer the impending surgery question because no one seems to be able to agree on an actual diagnosis. If it is a herniated disc, the disc bulging from in between the two spinal bones will irritate some of the surrounding nerves, causing a great amount of pain with certain movements. And without treatment Kovalchuk might start experiencing (if he isn't already) numbness and weakness in an arm or leg. Those with herniated discs rarely have surgery to correct the issue, and I'm sure the trainers in New Jersey are taking excellent care of the veteran left winger, but you still have to ask yourself, will rehab techniques and pain killers be enough to snuff the pain in his lower back enough to produce points come the start of the 2012-13 season?
Marc Savard, C, Bruins: Concussions have become a huge issue not only in hockey but within the world of sports as a whole. We're seeing athlete after athlete stay out of the game for months (and in some cases years) at a time because their symptoms are not wavering. Savard (Boston) has been out since January 2011 and is still experiencing daily headaches and memory loss. Standing up on skates for too long is an issue and causes nausea and dizziness, which means Savard is still nowhere near returning to play professional hockey.
Marian Hossa, RW, Bloackhawks: One of our favorite wingers, Hossa is still recovering from a concussion caused by an illegal hit he took during the playoffs. Hossa is optimistic about his own return to training camp; however, he hasn't seen the ice since he took the hit. The optimistic lookout comes with good reason, Hossa's concussion-like symptoms seem under control and he's thankfully back in workout mode. With all concussions the problem is that nothing can be measured on a specific timetable, and in no way are they predictable. If he's back for training camp we can all breathe easier, if he's not, well, we can only hope that Chicago has a back-up plan to replace him. Hossa notched 29 goals and 48 assists in 81 games this past season.
Michael Sauer, D, Rangers: Sauer still has a huge question mark on his return date. Sauer hasn't played since December 5, 2011 and to this date hasn't started working out yet either. In his short season, Sauer played 19 games with one goal and two assists and had a plus-9 rating.
More optimistically, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, C, Wild and Nathan Horton, RW, Bruins, who both haven't played since January, might be seeing the light at the end of the dark concussion symptom filled tunnel. Bouchard only got through 37 games with nine goals and 13 assists (ending with 18 PIMs and a minus-1 rating) before his injury. The Wild's GM has said recently that he is very optimistic for Bouchard to return for training camp. Horton had a longer season of 46 games and had 17 goals and 15 assists before succumbing to his head injury. The Bruins are so confident in his return that they're not looking at any replacement forwards for the upcoming season.
Radek Martinek, D, Blue Jackets: Martinek may be ready to join the Blue Jackets in action this season after missing all but seven games of the 2011-12 season due to his concussion. The defenseman is showing promise while he skates during the offseason. Martinek netted a lone goal in his seven games with Columbus and registered five hits on the boards.
Steve Montador, D, Blackhawks: Here's another blueliner we might be able to see return. Before his concussion woes started, Montador played in 52 games and netted five goals with nine assists plus 49 hits. For the sake of some of our deeper rosters, we can only hope his symptoms fade away soon.
Patrice Bergeron, C, Bruins: Comparatively, concussions can be career-ending or heal within days or weeks. There's no promise that any one of these players will return for training camp, let alone the regular season. Bergeron is a great example of the healing process taking a long time, but the end resulting in a thunderous return. However, Savard may be at the other end of this concussion spectrum. Only time will tell us, but when it comes to concussions I wouldn't take a bold choice when it comes to your roster during the draft.
Jaroslav Halak, G, Blues: One goalie to watch out for would be Halak of St.Louis. During the first round of playoffs Halak suffered a high-ankle sprain. These sprains involve the ligament that holds the fibula and tibia together and to the ankle. Halak was supposed to be cleared for activity sometime last week but because these injuries tend not to heal as easily as a normal ankle sprain he seems to be a little behind schedule. Halak is admitting to some continued discomfort, and since this is causing his offseason workouts to be delayed this is not a good sign as training camp starts to linger near. Because Halak is a goalie I have a very big feeling that his "discomfort" might continue to be felt for longer than he (or anyone that happens to be a fan of the Blues) wants. Instability will be a huge issue even if rehab is taken seriously and, again for a goalie, that's never a good sign. I for one like my goalies to be able to stay up on their skates.
Dylan MIlrath, D, Rangers: In the 2010 entry draft the Rangers picked defenseman McIlrath 10th overall. Since then McIlrath has been playing for the WHL Moose Jaw Warriors accumulating 139 penalty minutes and 39 points in 66 games (including the postseason). During the Rangers' prospect camp the last week of June, McIlrath collided with newly signed Kyle Jean and dislocated his kneecap. After walking away from his injury, McIlrath opted for surgery in July, which doesn't particularly make sense. Most patellar dislocations can be simply treated with exercises (quadriceps and hamstring stabilizers mostly), pain and anti-inflammatory medications, and splinting. However, a handful of lucky athletes need to be treated surgically, and as we can see McIlrath is just one lucky kid. Whether the dislocation was caused by tension on the lateral side (outside) of the knee (this is caused by tight lateral ligaments) or the act of the dislocation caused bone or cartilage to break off within the knee joint (these pieces can get stuck and cause further damage) both are treated arthroscopically (a tiny camera in tiny incisions). There is no set timetable for McIlrath's return to the ice, but if the Rangers aren't hiding anything (like his kneecap was fractured in the collision, or the surgery fixed something we're not being told about just yet) and he had one of these very simple surgeries then his recovery should quick and easy and there may be a chance we see him during training camp.
Dana Tyrell, C, Lightning: The Lightning may be seeing Tyrell back on skates soon. The fourth line center had ACL reconstructive surgery on his right knee back in late January for the second time in almost three years. This surgery could have consisted of many things, and I don't want to bore you with the details, but ACL surgery in any case is never particularly minor. Normally, recovery from ACL reconstructive surgery is about 6-9 months, and in this case it seems to be closer to the latter since Tyrell has yet to see the ice this offseason. In this point of his rehab, Tyrell should be doing "sports specific" exercises, which means his skates should be sharpened and laced very soon. Coming off a major injury, one that he's had multiple times in his extremely short career, and lacking Fantasy point value (in 26 games he had only five assists and ended with a minus-5) I'd think twice about snatching him up.
Whether you focus on experience or probability, the most important thing is to pick a healthy player, but it is hockey so there's really not a lot of that going around. So, the next best thing is to pay attention and figure out who will at least be able to score points and produce wins with whatever ailment they may be slightly trying to ignore.