(Ed’s note: Walshy submitted this piece a few weeks back, but I wasn’t able to get it published at the time due to the site overhaul etc. We are finally getting it out to you today. I put a couple of updates in parentheses where applicable! As usual, Walshy’s physical training background comes into play with some great information on what these key Penguins can do to get healthy, stay healthy and have effective seasons moving forward. – Metz)
By Cameron Walsh
Well with us heading up to the draft and the free agency period I thought it might be prudent to have a look at some of the key injuries to key Penguins through the year and the impact it had on the year and how it will affect 2011-12.
I haven’t covered everyone on the roster, just some of those injuries that had a major affect on the team, I think we can see a few that really stuck out, it will be interesting to see how some of the Penguins return and their work rate over the off season, not just to come back but to be at a higher level of fitness than they were in 2010-11.
In no particular order of importance or when they occurred, however I think they popped into my head in this order due to their importance and influence on the team when they occurred.
Games Missed: 41
Concussion (Jan 5): Not really a need to go over this, apart from the the fact I think it was more the Hedman hit that ‘finished’ his season than the Steckel hit. For Crosby the biggest thing is just getting the all clear to get back on the ice and workout again. Articles like this do make one worry about Crosby’s ability to have enough time to get ‘Crosby’ ready for 2011-12. Crosby will then have that mental hurdle of taking that first hit to the head and coming out of it ok, similar to that moment in Days of Thunder, once through, Crosby will know he will be fine, whether or not his head/brain is, will be a neurological status that not even the doctors can predict. (Ed’s note: Crosby was cleared to resume workouts on 06/02/11)
Games Missed: 29 MCL, ACL, 10 left knee, shoulder
MCL, ACL (Feb 4): The hope for Malkin in 2010-11 was to have Geno Machino healthy as the feeling was 09-10 was not up to standard due to nagging injuries that wouldn’t allow Malkin to perform to his full potential. Before Malkin busted up both his right ACL and MCL against Buffalo, there was speculation that both his shoulder and left knee were giving him issues through the year.
With that being said, post surgery for his ACL and MCL reconstruction, Malkin has the chance to either heal naturally on those other sore parts (recommended) or have small procedures to help them along. We got to see Geno skating before the end of the playoffs, a very good sign, I have said it before and I will say it again. It won’t be a matter of Malkin getting back to what he was before the injuries, it will be Malkin taking his fitness levels beyond that and stepping up, adding a new ‘skill’ to his game that will show his commitment to improving his game. (Ed’s Note: News out of Russia last week suggested that Malkin has been skating for close to a month and is what could be considered the best shape of his career.)
Games Missed: 40
Injuries: Foot (Infection, from start of year), broken hand (broken in last practice before 1st game back)
Staal’s season started Jan 1, a full off season of workouts is what Staal will be after, one with no injuries. After a well publicized comeback game in the Winter Classic, you could see Staal fighting the rest of the way. Thrust into the #1 center roll, his body was not up to the roll he was asked to do. The minutes he managed to log was a testament to his work rate, still managed a ppg of 0.71.
That work rate needs to translate across to the offseason, if and I do mean if, Bylsma is going to run with Staal as the #2 center he will need to be able to log a few more minutes per game as he is going to play in all situations more often, interval work and long distance running would be some great off ice work for Staal.
Games Missed: 13
MCL (Feb 1) Came back (Feb 26 v Leafs) Letestu’s injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for him or the team, he was starting to look like he was finding his grove and getting his confidence up when he hit a rut in the wonderful MSG ice during warm ups and ‘tweaked’ his MCL and required surgery to repair the tear. With Letestu being under contract next year and the center depth on this team supposed to be at full strength the onus will be on Letestu to improve his skating and core strength as he got pushed off the puck a little too easily. With hockey players traditional ‘core’ exercises are no good, exercises on unstable surfaces and under contact are more effective, as those are the conditions he will be competing in, not doing crunches.
Games Missed: 25
ACL (Feb 10) Jeffery skated into Quick (13:49 of second), trying to pull up to avoid contact his skate jack knifed his left leg under Quick then had Jeffery ‘collapse’ over Quick with his knee sideways to the collision. Knees are not supposed to bend that way; the shearing/twisting motion of the contact would have torn the ACL.
The recovery for Jeffery will be pretty well the same as what Malkin went through, under the assumption they went through the same procedure, I am making that assumption as Jeffery is an RFA and all indicators are Ray Shero wants Jeffery back, so all care would be taken to get that ‘asset’ back to 100% and beyond. Look for a full recovery time of 6 months being around the start to middle of September.
Broken finger (Feb 23) Vs Sharks Patrick Marleau’s shot hit right hand. Returned March 27 V Panthers 13 games. Missed another 6 games due to a groin injury that was likely residual from the sports hernia operation he had in the off season.
Before the season started Orpik had a sports hernia procedure (Oct 9 to 23), to try and release some tension and regain some movement in his skating stride for the 2010-11 season. At the start of the year this 6 game block of missed games seemed like a residual effect of the body adjusting to the change in the body.
The 13 games missed for the hand injury, well, the Penguins cannot be happy with pucks this year, Orpik, Staal, both missing substantial time with broken extremities. Orpik over this off season will be wanting some much earned rest then work on making sure his cardiovascular fitness is at it’s highest level it has been. Bylsma has shown he is going to ride his top 4 dmen.
Games Missed: 22
Concussion (Feb 1) Returned Mar 24 Asham was fine upon returning from his concussion; maybe having a few fights in your career has its advantages? Asham came back well enough to be a clutch performer for the Penguins this past off season. With Asham heading into FA, the biggest thing he will want to prove to any prospective GM is he can stand up for a full season, the concussion was not the only injury that kept him off the ice this past year.
Games Missed: 25
Concussion: Missed (Feb 11) did not return: Well the now infamous Islanders game claims another Penguin, a season that Nick Johnson had great plans for fell away early at camp and ended suddenly with a concussion in that game and never started again. (Ed’s note: Johnson was actually lost on February 18… left ice during practice with what ended up being a concussion Johnson injury report)
Similar to Eric Tangradi, skating is Johnson’s biggest knock, but unlike Tangradi he will have to get over the mental challenge of not having a full speed hit until the new season starts in October, until then Johnson needs to work through plyometric leg work and quick step ladder runs, it wouldn’t hurt Tangradi and Johnson to train together, might help the two of them create some chemistry. He still needs to be resigned by the Penguins, currently a UFA (Ed’s note: Johnson was re-signed by the team on Saturday 06/04/11)
Concussion: (Feb 1) Tangradi managed to return for the last game of the year (Apr 10) and played his first playoff game this season. With Tangradi looking like he is mentally over his concussion, showing no fear heading to the boards and going into the dirty areas of the ice, the biggest thing for Tangradi to work towards this off season is his speed.
One of the best things the Penguins did was to allow Tangradi the chance this season to have physical contact once cleared by the doctors. There would be nothing worse mentally than having to wait a whole off season to get your first game speed hit wanting to know if you can handle it, crossing that mental hurdle is just as important as being allowed on the ice.
One of the knocks on Tangradi his entire pro career has been his skating and if he is quick enough to keep up with the NHL game. A lot of off-ice plyometric leg work and quick feet ladder work will go a long way to help improve Tangradi’s perceived weakness.
Games Missed: 16
General Wear and Tear: This is going to be Kunitz’s MO for the rest of his career, due to his bash and crash style of play, and especially in Dan Bylsma’s system. Only getting through 66 games this season, it was 16 more games than the season before, the feeling was the Penguins got much more value out of the forechecking freak this season than last and getting another 15 odd games out of Kunitz would be better again.
Before 09-10 Kunitz played in 245 of 246 games, that includes the 62/20 split between his two teams in the 08/09 Cup run, a fully recovered Kunitz will go a long way to balancing out the Penguins top 6. So it is not impossible for Kunitz to get 75-82 games out of his body, he just needs the time to recover and get up to his previous level of fitness to avoid the muscle strain injuries that slow him down, you cannot avoid shoulder and knee injuries with the way Kunitz plays, if he gets hurt that way, he gets hurt unfortunately.