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.