August 03, 2011
The current poster boy for the NHL's concussion concerns has to be Sidney Crosby(notes) of the Pittsburgh Penguins, whose absence last season (and postseason) sparked pundit vitriol about hits to the head and arguably served as the catalyst for further rules changes by the NHL to that end.
The St. Louis Blues forward last played on Nov. 4, suffering a concussion on a blindside hit from Joe Thornton(notes) of the San Jose Sharks that eventually cost Thornton two games under the NHL's still-new Rule 48.
Perron's concussion is perhaps the greatest reminder of what we don't know about brain injuries: Please recall he actually returned to the game and scored a goal 10 minutes later in the Blues' 2-0 win; and his symptoms didn't manifest during the supplemental discipline process with Thornton, leading to some debate about the suspension's validity. (A debate that may seem stunning in light of the injury's level of devastation, but speaks to the muddiness of the 'suspend-to-the-injury' mindset.)
And then he didn't play another game with the Blues.
In fact, he hasn't done much of anything hockey-related for months, with Blues GM Doug Armstrong telling the St. Louis Post-Dispatch this week that Perron hasn't "lifted weight yet or trained since the injury."
With NHL training camps weeks away, the Blues, Perron, his agent and doctors have come to a heart-wrenching conclusion for the 23-year-old standout: That he won't be ready for the start of the 2011-12 season, and that his return to the Blues is still in question.
In April, Armstrong explained that there wouldn't be a snap decision on Perron's status for next season, telling the Post-Dispatch:
"Time being an ally in David's situation, we're going to give this time," Armstrong said. "But if we get into mid-summer, and he's at the same position he is, we have to hope for the best, but plan for him to not be part of our roster.
"It's an ugly part of the business, where you care about the individual, but you can't leave roster spots on the hope and the wish and the maybe. … But we don't have to make that decision as an organization until July at the absolute earliest."
Instead, the decision came in August. Jeremy Rutherford broke the news on Wednesday, via Armstrong:
"Where we're at now, in the summer and with training camp, we've decided to just move forward with the idea that David won't be ready for training camp ... he'll just continue to progress and when he is ready, whatever time he is ready, he'll jump back in and start his training to resume his career. But we're not expecting him at training camp."
The decision came earlier this week, when Armstrong spoke with Perron, Perron's agent Allan Walsh and the Blues' medical staff on a conference call. Armstrong said that with training camp six weeks away, it was important for the club to make a definitive decision and move forward.
"That's what we talked about," Armstrong said. "David, as we get closer, he doesn't want to answer these questions. He just wants to focus on getting ready. I think it's just better for David, for the coaches, for everyone to realize that he is progressing but we're not expecting him to be ready at training camp. … But as much as this is to clear the air for everybody, I think it's important to let David just continue going at his own pace."
Perron has 131 points in 235 NHL games, and he's still a piece of the Blues' young foundation. He's signed through this season, and goes RFA next summer.
At this point, it's flat-out depressing to think that a bright young talent like Perron could be on the shelf for a calendar year with a concussion. To think that the Blues had to approach this season drawing up "with Perron" and "without Perron" lineups. (Perron/McDonald/Backes would have made for a nice top line.) To think about what could have been done to prevent this, or if anything could be done at all.
Armstrong says Perron is slowly progressing, but that progress is so slow that it's left his return to the lineup a mystery. But that's the nature of the injury, isn't it? It's a frustrating, tragic mystery. Think about when you first saw the Thornton hit; did you think Perron wouldn't have been able to lift a weight in by August 2011?
Hoping for a speedy recovery is pointless now. Just recover, kid.