Several readers have been asking about the current status of some of the injured Canes who were either unable to play, or who were not skating at 100% when the season unceremoniously came to an end last April. I decided to attempt to get in touch with the organization, to see if I could find out any updated information.
After making contact, I was fortunate enough to be connected with Peter Friesen, the Head Athletic Therapist/Strength Conditioning Coach of the Carolina Hurricanes. What better person to talk to regarding the team's injuries?
I started off by asking Friesen if he could give me an up-to-date status report on each of Carolina's injured players.
Rod Brind'Amour- (PF)-The knee is doing extremely well and Rod is back to probably working out harder than anyone else on the team. I know that currently he is skating at least 2-3 times a week and we fully expect him to be at 100% when he comes to camp in September.
Justin Williams- (PF)-Justin's knee is also doing very well and he is working out regularly. Justin actually would have been able to play in the playoffs if the Canes could have qualified. (CC- what about his back which was injured against Washington?) His back situation was just a minor muscle strain which he had fully recuperated from within 5 days or so after the incident.
Ray Whitney-(PF)- Ray was suffering from bursitus, which affected the bone on the inside of his ankle. The decision was made to remove the bursa before the end of the season, but it was still extremely painful for Ray to even put on his skate. He withdrew from the World Championships because there was still pain, but the ankle has since completely healed and Ray is now at 100%.
Matt Cullen- (PF)-Matt still has some reprecutions from those 2 major hits he took during the season. He has seen some specialists and his tests have come back okay. He is back on the ice, is working out, and skates 2-3 times a week, but he is not at 100% yet. His condition keeps improving though and we expect him to be ready for action come September.
Frantisek Kaberle- (PF)-Frank had some minor surgery done on his shoulder. It was a very common surgery that many hockey players get in the offseason. There is a small bone at the end of the clavicle, on the collarbone near the AC joint which was removed. The operation was a success, the shoulder has healed, and Frank should be 100% when he comes to training camp.
Patrick Eaves- (PF)-Patrick actually had the exact same operation that Frank Kaberle had. It was also successful, so Patrick will be ready for training camp as well.
David Tanabe- (PF)-David is still not 100%. It has been very slow resolving his issues and he has seen several specialists and had several MRI's, but they have not been able to identify any specific problem. Yet he still suffers from symptoms. Concussions are the toughest things to treat because you can't put your finger on any particular thing and correct it, like you can most ailments. Sometimes all the tests come back looking fine, but the player still suffers from symptoms and nothing can be done to identify or treat the problem. David is attempting light workouts and will wait to see how he feels in September.
CC- How much input do you have regarding who makes the team during training camp? Is a player's conditioning part of the evaluation process?
(PF)- I really have very little to do with that decision-making process. As you know, contract status is the primary factor regarding who makes the team. Talent on the ice usually takes precedence over conditioning, although if a decision comes down to 2 players who are pretty equal at the end of camp, we would probably choose the player who has the best conditioning and work ethic.
CC- What is the typical procedure used to determine whether or not a player is deemed healthy enough to return to the ice after an injury?
(PF)- The decision basically comes down to three things. First of all, the player's condition needs to be approved by the medical physician. They need to be completely healed, health-wise before they are allowed to play again.
Then it is up to me to make sure the player is game-ready. I usually put the player through some tests in practice to see if they are capable of performing under certain conditions.
Finally, it's up to the athlete. First and foremost, they need to feel 100% comfortable out on the ice.
CC- Were all of these procedures followed at the end of the season? Specifically speaking, when Matt Cullen and Ray Whitney played?
(PF)- I thought you might have been alluding to that! Look, there is a gray area regarding this. These players play with injuries all the time. Look at the Stanley Cup Finals. Much of the team was playing through some sort of injury.
Those last couple of games were huge for the team and these players. All we needed were a couple of points, and we would have been in the playoffs. Matt and Ray wanted to be out there badly. They were both medically cleared to play. Matt was given all the standard tests and nothing showed up. He passed them all.
In the end, it's the coach's decision. Ray Whitney is a phenomenal talent. Even at 75%, he is probably better than the player who would take his place.
CC- It seems like the franchise has suffered from an inordinate number of injuries and man-games lost during the past couple of years. Has the organization looked at this? Do you have any explanation, or is it just bad luck?
(PF)- One thing I can assure you, it is not because of lack of fitness. I have interviewed several players and different teams around the league, and I honestly believe that our team is the among the fittest, if not the most fit in the NHL. But are we too fit? Do we skate too hard and too fast? Is it our style of play? I don't know.
I think that it's a very complex issue related to many things. Perhaps the way we play the game has something to do with it? For instance, let's say that your goalie doesn't play the puck very often, so the defensemen always have to go behind the net to get the puck. They can get hammered back there, and eventually the long term abuse could take it's toll on those defensemen. So the style of play, or the way you play the game could have an affect on injuries.
I also think that some of this new equipment coming out could cause more injuries. These new skates that just came out are very rigid at the ankle and above the ankle. Even though the skates are lighter than ever, they allow absolutely no movement in the ankle area whatsoever. So when a player gets hit just right, what gives? I think that had something to do with Ray Whitney's injury. Also, the sticks are more brittle than ever. It's a combination of things.
Timing could also be an issue. For instance, if a player tears an ACL in November, they will lose a ton of man-games, but if a player gets hurt in March, there is less affect. I have been a part of teams that have had very few injuries and I have been a part of the opposite end of the spectrum, when we led the league in man-games lost. Bottom line, I think it's probably just a matter of bad luck. Hopefully, next year we will have very few injuries to worry about.
CC- Pete, I better let you go now. Thanks very much for your time and for your very frank and candid answers. We really appreciate it.
(PF)- Anytime, and don't hesitate to call back if you have any follow-up questions.
Again, I'd like to thank Pete Friesen for taking the time for the interview and for being so gracious. I might have hit him with a couple of questions that he wasn't expecting.
Also, thanks to the Hurricanes organization for setting this up. Hopefully, we can continue to build a relationship so that the Canes Country Blog will be granted more interviews like this one in the future.