James O'Brien

Hockey Daily Dose

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Soft Tissue Issues

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

The Hockey Daily Dose isn’t meant to be some maverick regular column that’s “above” some of the stories of the day, but I have to admit that I’ve tried to keep the Sidney Crosby Concussion Wild Goose Chase at an arm’s length. Simply put, the saga’s been a lot like a soap opera except there aren’t any sexy co-eds and the drama and hair-pulling has been replaced by depressing updates and teases in comeback clothing.


Lately, it’s been sharing some of the plot twists and finger-pointing of soap operas, though, so it seems as if there’s little choice but to at least acknowledge the latest developments. Sure, there’s not much I can say when some Justice League of world-renowned (and Tom Brady-approved!) specialists barely sort of know what’s going on, but let’s at least make a quick run-through.


Going into Tuesday, the Pittsburgh media stirred up a frenzy about the Penguins medical staff supposedly misdiagnosing/all-around missing an alleged “broken neck.”


However you feel about the credibility of that controversial stance, the furor sent the Penguins in full-on spin control. The Penguins released statements basically washing their hands of the situation. Sidney Crosby and Penguins GM Ray Shero went as far as to hold a press conference to try to stifle the story.


The takeaway is that Crosby’s neck isn’t broken/fractured/whatever scary word signifies a truly frightening injury. Instead, Crosby says that he’s dealing with a “soft tissue” injury in his neck. I cannot say I really know what that means (that’s what zero hours of med school will do for you), but here are the bullet points from the sources.


  • Shero says that there hasn’t been any talk of shutting down Crosby for the season or his career. (Personally, the former doesn’t sound out of question since, you know, the regular season is almost over already.)
  • Crosby is pleased that the soft-tissue issue is something that can be “worked on,” which one can only assume is a reference to the mysterious and frustrating process of trying to recover from concussions.
  • Sid says he’s feeling “pretty good” but isn’t all that close to coming back. (There we go, that’s the type of shadowy optimism we’ve come to expect.)


So, in the grand scheme of things it seems like a good news/bad news situation, but it’s mainly negative news for Crosby owners (aside from ones in keeper leagues, perhaps). Like I said a moment ago, it’s hard to imagine Crosby playing a whole lot – if at all – in 2011-12.



Let’s hop from an ailing star to a failing asset, as it seems like the Marek Zidlicky era is just about over in Minnesota.


Zidlicky has been a healthy scratch for a handful of games and his role was already diminishing significantly from the respectable-40-or-so-points-per-season level he’s been at for some time. That frustration came to a head on Tuesday as Zidlicky complained that Wild head coach Mike Yeo demanded that he back off the attacking, offense-first style that made him an effective scorer from the blueline. He claims that Yeo wants him to play “easy hockey,” although the term seems a little fishy. I’d call it “simple” instead, as the easy hockey Zidlicky refers to – as in being required to make quick, dump the puck type decisions more often than not – can often require the very hard sacrifice of playing a more physical game.


Either way, Yeo isn’t happy with a) the content of Zidlicky’s complaints but (most gnawingly) b) the medium he used to deliver such a message. The defenseman aired his dirty laundry with the coach in the most prominent way possible and while Yeo didn’t come out and say it, I’d find it hard to believe that Zidlicky will be in Minnesota much longer.


(In fact, I’d be surprised to see him play another game, although he might be scratched for another one before Wild GM Chuck Fletcher can unload him on another team.)


Zidlicky isn’t a world-changer, but if he lands with a good contender, he might end up being the respectable depth/filler fantasy defenseman he was for many years with the Wild. He certainly hasn’t scored many points in the “character” category, though.



Evgeni Malkin once again powered the Penguins to victory with his late heroics in a wacky Penguins-Maple Leafs game last night … The Flyers are looking for a bruising defenseman on the trade market … Speaking of trades, the Coyotes aren’t interested in moving captain – and pending unrestricted free agent – Shane Doan unless he asks for a change of scenery himself … At what point will the Columbus Blue Jackets accept reality with Steve Mason? He allowed six goals in another embarrassing loss as San Jose handed it to Columbus. It almost seems like there should be a managerial mercy rule for this sort of thing … The Tampa Bay Lightning might not be out of the playoff race yet. They’re on a five-game winning streak and have a pretty favorable schedule going forward … Antti Niemi is now on a two-game shutout streak. That guy needs to make it onto a few more “most underrated goalies” lists, doesn’t he?



Brenden Morrow returned to the Stars fold. Will he be trade fodder soon? … Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp returned to the Blackhawks lineup and played more than 19 minutes each on Tuesday … Jaromir Jagr and Victor Hedman round the list of most notable returning players … Adam Henrique is day-to-day with a groin injury. (Click here for the full injury list.)

James O'Brien is the Hockey Daily Dose's author and has been a contributor to NBC's Pro Hockey Talk for more than four years. Follow him on Twitter.
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