St. Louis Blues: NHL Injuries Need More Transparency

Mar 16, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny passes the puck up ice in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Blues won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 16, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; St. Louis Blues center Paul Stastny passes the puck up ice in the second period at SAP Center at San Jose. The Blues won 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports /

The St. Louis Blues have been hit a bit hard by the injury bug at the wrong time. While this is nothing new, it brings up an old problem that may never have a respectable solution.

The St. Louis Blues may be between a rock and a hard place as we approach the playoffs. With injuries mounting instead of healing, there is a question about how long they can sustain their winning ways.

With so many young players stepping into the lineup, the Blues have done an admirable job of having the next guy step in, produce and keep winning. However, with the playoffs only a little over a week away, health is an asset the Blues don’t seem to have on their side.

Heading into the team’s final 2016-17 game against Winnipeg, the team could be without as many as five of their regulars and likely four at least. Those aren’t numbers you want to hear as the playoffs approach.

Not knowing is the most frustrating thing as a fan though. For whatever reason, the NHL continues to hide behind the vaguest of terms when it comes to injuries.

It’s always just lower-body or upper-body and either day to day or week to week. If it is a catastrophic injury that requires surgery, sometimes – I stress sometimes – the information will leak out.

Now there is word that Paul Stastny may be much worse off than originally indicated. If the rumors are true and he has a broken foot, then people should be allowed to know that at least.

At least it would not give fans false hope that Stastny will be playing any time soon. If he did, it would be a welcome surprise, but people would not be wondering if each progressing game might see the return of St. Louis’ top faceoff man.

This incident brings up the age old question of transparency for NHL injuries. There might not be a need for anyone to know the deepest medical details such as which bone is broken or which ligament is damaged. However, give us a specific. Give us a true time table.

Mike Yeo initially thought Stastny would play the next game following Stastny’s March 21 injury. The next day, it switched to week to week.

Nobody is blaming the coach for his initial thoughts, but the team knew quickly the severity. Tell people it is unlikely he’ll make it the rest of the season but the team remains hopeful for a speedy recovery. T.J. Oshie came back from a broken ankle in record time, but that’s not the norm.

A quick Google search shows the general consensus on broken feet is anywhere from 6-12 weeks. The low end of that spectrum puts Stastny out until May 2.

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If that was the case, there is no way Stastny returns until the second round of the playoffs at best. Maybe he has a healing body and comes back in the first round, but that seems unlikely if these rumors are true.

The NHLPA seems to always fall back on medical privacy and not wanting to give teams a target if someone plays through an injury. These are all outdated ideas.

The medical privacy part is law, but you could give out more information than lower or upper-body. The NFL is the biggest contact sport there is and they have reasonably detailed injury reports every week.

At the very least, say a body part. You don’t even need to say broken, but say it’s a foot injury or a knee or a head etc.

Give conservative, but realistic timetables. Week to week is too vague and gives hope where there may be none.

The Blues did the same thing with Jaroslav Halak in 2011-12. After being injured in a playoff series with the San Jose Sharks, the team never shut the door on him being able to play each game that followed against the Sharks and then the Kings after that.

After the season ended, we found out there was never any hope he could return. He had a fairly severe knee problem and would not have been able to play even if he wanted.

That type of stuff is just aggravating. If a player cannot go, what difference does it make if the opponent knows it? How much advantage do you really gain by making them think they have to gameplan for the small possibility of one player over another?

Again, specifics aren’t needed but there should be more than generalizations that treat fans like children. At the very least, say Stastny might not make the rest of the regular season and then go from there.

It keeps conversations realistic. For example, fans are going around talking about keeping Jori Lehtera benched since the team is playing so well without him.

Given Lehtera’s inability to produce top-line or even second-line numbers playing with a top-five goal scorer, it makes sense. If we knew Stastny would not be back before the playoffs, it is a lot less likely to even entertain that thought.

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The Blues will need the help up the middle. Lehtera’s faceoff numbers are down, but it’s still around 50% and that’s much better than without him, where the team has been as low as 33% in some games.

Regardless of the Lehtera situation, it is just tiring to hear teams continue to say there is a chance a player could return when they won’t. Whether it is gamesmanship for the opponent or a perceived need for privacy, this over-generalization of NHL injuries needs to change. The NHL is usually one of the most progressive leagues in America. They are lagging behind in this respect.