Injuries and their Long Term Effects

This is Alex Plante. He was injured right at the beginning of training camp and then again recently. I’m wondering about the long term impact for this player and whether or not we as fans should factor injuries (and lost development time) into the equation when discussing “failed prospects” or “draft busts.”

Much like yesterday’s post this one runs into a bit of danger in terms of topic. I’m not so much interested in “excuse making” or “you’re wrong he’ll be fine” as a discussion about how much impact these things have on a career.

Most of us assume that once a player returns to the lineup after injury he’ll automatically go back to being the player he’d always been before the injury. In discussing it we may agree that it’ll factor in but it is usually quickly forgotten and the expectation is a complete return to form. In reality we know just from watching NHL players play through injuries it can have a major effect.

I think the best “comp” for the Alex Plante injury story is a combination of Marc Pouliot’s teenage injury record (listed in the post below) and the story of Doug Lynch.

When Lynch was drafted his scouting report told us he had good size and was a smart defender. Foot speed would be a factor in development but he was also a big hitter. He described himself as a “Jason Smith” clone. He put up solid offensive numbers as a junior, even played a little LW from time to time.

Lynch had an outstanding junior career (he was on a Memorial Cup winning team) and moved from junior to pro flawlessly. He looked to be that rare defenseman who brings ALL of his offense from junior and was named to the AHL All-Star team.

A quote from Kevin Prendergast, christmas 2003: Dougie’s coming. He’s playing really well down there and getting better all the time. The one thing he does have to work on is the outside speed of the game. He’s doing an awful lot of work on that with his feet movement and Jeff Beukeboom is doing a lot of work with him. Physically he can play at this level, he thinks the game really well, but if he’s going to be a defenseman in the NHL you’ve got to be able to handle that outside speed. The more he plays down there the better he’ll get at it.” In April 2004, he was named to the AHL All-Rookie team, and he made his NHL debut that season.

The 04-05 season saw Lynch more error prone and falling off offensively. There was no mention I can find of any injury at least through end Jan. 2005. Finally in May 2005, a Guy Flaming article for HF says “Lynch had wrist surgery last summer but the recovery and rehab wasn’t smooth so the rearguard played with immense pain all year and it hampered his ability to be effective.”

Lynch was dealt to St. Louis in the summer of 2005 and the downhill slide continues. He began the season in the AHL and then was demoted to the ECHL (incredible considering he was named to the AHL All-Star team two years earlier) and then suffered a knee injury while playing in that league. At this point in his career Lynch would probably have been considered close to NP and in fact now plays in Europe.

Lynch’s injury was severe and I’m in no way trying to compare the Plante situation with Lynch. However, combined with the Pouliot injury history in the post below (and we could discuss the severe shoulder injury to Niinimaki here too) I’m wondering how many prospects recover from injury trouble in those key development years.

What is the impact of missing games (and development time) as a 17-20 year old? Based on the Edmonton Oilers draft list it would appear to be about as severe as Doug Lynch’s wrist injury.

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15 Responses to "Injuries and their Long Term Effects"

  1. Dennis says:

    I saw the guy at the A level and I absolutely loved his game. Had a knack for getting his shot on net, was a great passer and had some serious vision. I was convinced we had a player on our hands.

    I saw him play more than I saw Woywitka but all Jeff ever had going for him, at least to my eye, was his skating. While on the other hand, there were a bunch of things that Lynch was good at and now that I think of it, it reminded me of when I saw Horc down here and while Shawn wasn’t great at anything, he was also good at everything.

    It’s not like I’m Lorne Davis or anything but from all the guys I ever saw good and predicted they would make the NHL, Lynch is the one that go away, IMO. I’m also a guy that liked Semenov but nowhere to the point of where I liked Lynch. I’d imagine bars all over Canada are littered with guys who’ll tell you they were one bad break away from making it but I think that Lynch would have as solid case as any. Like the man said, look at his rookie season and tell me that’s not a guy earmarked for the bigs? I’d really like to nail down one of the Oilers scouts to just see if they didn’t also have the guy penciled in.

  2. Black Dog says:

    Probably can throw O’Marra in there too, no?

    I think a lot of these kids make the mistake of trying to play through the injuries as well – hockey, like football, has a culture of playing through pain. Bobby Baun, the Lowe story about the Oilers’ first trip to the Finals and walking by the Islanders’ dressing room, Bobby Orr playing despite the constant pain in his knees. Compare this to baseball – how many stories of this nature – Kirk Gibson and a bunch of guys with sore hair on the DL.

    The Lynch story is interesting – here’s a kid who sounds like he had a lot of pain yet tried to play through it because the sport values that trait. If he had taken time off it may have saved his career.

    Instead his play falls off, he begins to question himself and so does the organization.

    Whereas a guy who is established, while he may still have that ethos, also knows that he can take time off if need be. Or he knows that it has effected his play and as a result it has less impact on his confidence. And the organization knows what he is capable of as well.

  3. toqueboy says:

    i broke both of my wrists as a 17 year old, in an informal slam dunk contest, a long time ago. everything seemed fine…and then during golfing season in the summer, something became obviously wrong…my one elbow became hugely swollen and my shoulder got all gimpy….

    i’m not saying that i was a superstar athlete, but injuries at a young age seem to pile up…especially if you’re given any sort of crap medical assessment, which most people seem to get. to this day, my left arm/wrist/shoulder is still SOL…

    i couldn’t imagine being an elite dman at any level with a broken wing like Lynch had.

  4. Daniel says:

    Hi LT. I’m a devoted reader but this is my first comment. It’s not completely on topic, but I got a chance to see the Springfield Falcons beat the Lowell Devils 3-2 in a shoot-out last night in Lowell (my wife and I are visiting her parents). The baby Oilers’ first goal was Schremp from Jacques and Roy on the PP, and then Jacques tied the game in the third unassisted, by picking up a puck that squirted out of the crease following good work by Schremp and Pouliot. Schremp, Pouliot, and Reddox all scored in the shoot-out, while Deslauriers stopped all three shots. Apologies for the length of this comment.

    Some more impressions: I thought Roy was the best player for the Falcons (apparently in his first game back after some holiday visa trouble), and the pairing of him and Peckham looked great all night. Nominally the top pairing were Rourke and Kemp, but apparently Rourke got injured at some point, so I think Roy and Peckham maybe got more minutes. Peckham was a terrific physical presence, throwing probably the two biggest hits of the game. I didn’t notice him much otherwise, which is probably a good thing. I’m looking forward to seeing how he does in the bigs. Roy was terrific, not letting guys go around him, backchecking well, and making fine passes out of his zone and in the offensive zone. Just very nice and solid. The bottom pair was Berry and Young.

    For the forwards, the top line through most of the game was Schremp-Pouliot-Jacques, and they were easily the best line on the ice, as they should be. Schremp especially impressed me, showing a lot of creativity with the puck, even in his own zone. When he got the puck in his own zone, he would get it out. Sadly, without the puck in his own zone he still floats a bit, only remembering every couple of seconds that he should be on a man, rather than watching the puck and waiting for a pass. Still, he was probably the best forward. JFJ and MAP both looked good – good speed, good passing (especially MAP), good hands – but no really dominant play. I should also say that Buchy played these three A LOT. I would guess that Schremp easily played over 25 minutes, possibly even 30, and probably the others as well. They were also the first PP line, and I’m not sure there even was a 2nd PP line. Pouliot got a bit of PK work.

    At the start of the game the other lines were Almtorp-Sestito-O’Marra, Trukhno-Reddox-McDonald, Simon-Bodie, and the two full lines had pretty even amounts of ice-time, to my eye. Late in the game, Buchy bumped the forward who’d had the best game, Reddox, up to play with Pouliot and Jacques, and put Schremp in for O’Marra, who sadly had had little impact. These two new lines (LR-MAP-JFJ, Almtorp-Sestito-Schremp) both played a lot late, and Reddox especially made a good impression with the promotion. Schremp also continued to play well.

    Finally, Deslauriers looked very good, though didn’t have to work too hard. Very nice shoot-out work (he comes WAY out to challenge the skaters and then very rapidly backs into his crease, but it worked). If I were to pick 3 stars I’d go Roy, Schremp, Reddox, with fine performances by Jacques, Pouliot, Peckham, and Deslauriers.

    Sorry again for the long post,

    Daniel

  5. MikeP says:

    The problem with not playing through injuries as a kid is you’ll lose your spot, and likely never get it back. I don’t think taking time off from injuries would have saved Lynch’s career; it likely would have torpedoed it altogether. But now he doesn’t have much of a career anyway (hah, he’s probably making as much money as I am still, playing a game, I should have such a bad career), and maybe his wrists hurt more than they would have. Good luck convincing a teenager of the benefits of that though.

  6. Lord Bob says:

    Doug Lynch still pisses me off. He had eveything I look for in a defenseman: he could make that breakout pass, he was better defensively than most of his draft kinsmen, and he was quick enough to get by. Plus, look at him. Lead pipe cinch to win a Hot-Off before he was 25.

    Alas, it was not to be.

    While it’s too early to write off O’Marra and Plante, it’s fair to say I’m worried about them. Pouliot, if memory serves me right, came back from his avalanche of injuries at something like 100% but lost critical development time. There’s no sign that O’Marra or Plante is back to where they were before they got hurt, and that’s got to get an Oiler fan’s heart in his throat.

  7. doritogrande says:

    I’ve got another example for you. Try Eric Fehr of the Washington Capitals. He was a dynamite scorer for my local Brandon Wheat Kings, Leading scorer, MVP in his final year of Junior and looked like he was ready for the straight jump to the NHL. After two years of being bumped back and forth to Hershey assumedly not for his lack of talent, he’s played two games in both leagues combined this year. I’d say his career’s in jeopardy due to his lengthy injury history.

  8. Mr DeBakey says:

    This effect also shows up in these young guy’s draft years.

    Last June it was Couture [was ranked #1 by someone for a while] and Negrin.

    The scouting summaries read something like
    - Good,
    -injury,
    - seemed to flatten out

    Both ended dropping, Negrin all the way to 70th.

  9. Dennis says:

    Daniel, glad to have you here, guy!! It’s too bad that you won’t see more games from the Falcons because you laid out a pretty good report. I read all the Falcons stuff I can and their official site had the lines listed and, man, that’s a young team. So, I’m not surprised Buchy was riding a JFJ-MP-RS line. Two of those guys are third year pros and the other’s a second so that’s the best combo the Oilers have of experience and production.

    Just a couple of questions:

    - I read where Schremp was set up by a huge JFJ hit, so, was that the only hit of the night by Jacques? it sounds like the guy terrorizes people at that level and I can see why given his stature and speed. I won’t get into why that doesn’t translate up here but just wondering if he did it all last game.

    - Funny that you mention JDD looking good in the SO because I saw him during one of his first pro games down here in St. John’s and David Ling just killed him. It was embarrasing. Coming out and backing seems like a good psych out move all the same though.

    - Peckam seems to have some good buzz about him and Roy’s an AHL vet so if Peckam’s close to being for real, it’s not a surprise he’d shine next to a guy who knows what he’s doing.

    - Finally, what kind of a game did and does Reddox play? We keep hearing him mentioned in the buzzsaw catergory.

    Lastly, athletes are just like us in terms of recovering from injuries, it’s just that when they recover, they can play sports a heckuva a lot better:) What I mean is that for any of us who’ve hurt ourselves weight training or playing rec sports, you know that things can take a long time to get back to normal and sometimes they never do.

    And LT’s one of the first guys I’ve seen consistently mention how little nagging injuries can derail a guy. I mean, if you’re competing against fellow draft classers and guys from other years and you’re trying to play through an injury and they’re not, well they’re certainly getting the jump on you. And then the same goes for when you play against other clubs in the bigs or in the AHL.

    This stuff matters. It might never be mentioned by any of the scribes if Pouliot ever gets dealt and thus fufils zero of his draft day promise, and I’m not making excuses for the guy, but it looks like a good bet for a factor of why he hasn’t gone farther.

  10. toqueboy says:

    daniel, nice post.

  11. Daniel says:

    Dennis: Thanks! To answer your other questions – Jacques did play a pretty physical game, especially in front of the opposition net. With his size he could probably be doing more, but I can’t complain about his results in this game (1G, 1A) (in the NHL however…). Reddox impressed me all game. He made the most of his shifts, creating energy, hitting guys twice his size. I can’t remember specifics on chances, but the puck seemed to be in the right end of the ice more often if Reddox was out (of course I know nothing about prospects in the Devils’ system,so I can’t say anything useful about matchups).

    Toqueboy: Thanks for the kind words.

  12. Lowetide says:

    Late to the party but my thanks as well Daniel.

    You know who had Reddox pegged on draft day? Redline Report.

  13. Black Dog says:

    So who is a comp for Reddox? Tucker? Or is that reaching too high?

  14. Lowetide says:

    I’d say a less skilled Tucker, although Reddox is writing his own script at this point.

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