While the 2020-21 St. Louis Blues still made the playoffs, it was a very disappointing season for many involved. Part of the reason it was such a downer was all the injuries.
One of the biggest one was the loss of Colton Parayko. In a season of 56 games, Parayko played in just 32 regular season games.
While the injury was kept secret for awhile, eventually we learned the truth. Parayko was dealing with an unspecified back injury.
The worry, which seems justified based on recent comments Parayko made, is that it was a true back issue and not just muscle related. The problem is that can recur any time.
As of right now, Parayko says his back feels as good as it has in a long time. “I’m happy it’s back to normal and ready to go and looking forward to just having more healthy seasons,” said Parayko, as reported by Tom Timmermann of STLToday.
However, as someone who has back issues and family members with back issues, the problem is it may never “heal” in the traditional sense. Not knowing what the specific issue is, it’s hard to say for certain, but most back issues never fully go away.
You can feel 100% and like you can take on the world. One weird tweak, often in some innocuous motion that shouldn’t injure anything, and you can barely walk.
As mentioned, Parayko’s own words are what lead me to believe this might be the case. He’s claiming rest was the best medicine.
“Mainly just rest,” he told Timmermann and other reporters on a call. “Just building up muscles around it, just muscles that are going to help. It’s been a good summer. I think rest has just been really good for it and it’s feeling as good as it ever has.”
The “building up muscles around it” is what leads me to believe this is a worrisome back issue. If it was a muscle strain, you wouldn’t really describe the issue as needing to build up muscles around it. You would simply strengthen the muscles in general.
Perhaps I’m reading too much into it. This is a guy that just extended his contract by eight seasons though and a back can go wrong at any moment.
The funny thing is how many people are so certain that Vladimir Tarasenko is done for, but there’s next to no mention of Parayko. Frankly, I’d be more worried about the defender.
No matter what kind of shape you’re in, gravity pulls down. Parayko has more mass, which is more pressure on his spine anyway, even it if was healthy. As a big defender that does get physical, even if he’s not throwing a ton of checks, there is no way the back won’t be in his subconscious.
As debilitating as back injuries can be, it’s hard not to have faint scars in your mind about what the problem could be if you’re hurt again.
Shoulders are bad enough, which is why so many fans think Tarasenko may never be the same. Until we see proof otherwise, there is a very real chance that Parayko might be a different player from here on out too.
Nobody really mentioned this worry when his extension was released. Yet, we’re worried about every penny of Tarasenko’s contract? That seems a bit unfair.
Regardless, the man himself seems to think he’s past the worst of it. Parayko seems confident that he’s dealt with whatever the issue was last year.
"“Obviously it was not great (last season). It definitely wasn’t great to play out there with it. I was trying to be there for the team but at some point, it’s just looking forward and hoping I’ve many more healthy years ahead of me. I’m glad that it’s one of those things that I took care of it and now I’m ready to rock and roll.”"
On the plus side, if Parayko is healthy, the Blues regain one of the better overall players in the league. Parayko is not an elite defender, nor a huge point producer. He does both well enough to be considered a top guy.
Now, Parayko just needs to live up to his own words. Not only about being healthy, but also his offense.
“I’m going to continue to shoot though everyone says to shoot more,” Parayko said in the STLToday article, “and I’m going to continue to keep shooting more and more and make sure I put the puck in good spots for everybody and try to get the puck at the net and hopefully that adds a little bit of offense to our team and just be a little bit more dynamic. I want to continue to get better defensively obviously but if I can just add a little bit more offensive touch, that will be nice.”
If the big man follows through on that promise, the Blues will definitely benefit. He’s got one of the hardest shots in the league and if you start firing more often, you’ll put the fear of the almighty in the opposing defenders. That clears lanes and gives the Blues more space.
It all boils down to whether that back is healthy. You need a strong back to rotate for those booming shots and also to keep up with the shifty forwards around the league.
Hopefully what Parayko believes about his own body will be the case. The worry is still that backs can feel great, until they don’t. You just never know.