Erik Karlsson. Image by: Getty Images
Erik Karlsson is accomplishing great things so far in the playoffs, but his employers may want him to be a little more tight lipped about his injury status.
On theory is that Erik Karlsson is just too darned honest. After all, he said himself that he’s not one for secrets. Another is that he just doesn’t care. At least one GM in the NHL thinks it’s the latter.
“Guys like us care about that stuff,” the GM said in response to Karlsson candidly revealing that he played the first round of the playoffs with two hairline fractures in his left foot. “He probably doesn’t give a sh--.”
To be sure, coaches and GMs around the league did a double take – some probably even did a spit take – when Karlsson detailed the specifics of the injury that hampered(?) him against the Boston Bruins. In an era of upper- and lower-body injuries or my personal favorite, general body soreness, it was a startling revelation. Karlsson was wearing protection on his foot and there was plenty of evidence to suggest he wasn’t 100 percent, but it was still mind-boggling that the information got out there so readily.
There’s another theory, too. That Karlsson’s injury is 100 percent healed, so it won’t be an issue. This despite the fact that Senators GM Pierre Dorion said Karlsson was not at 100 percent and likely won’t be until he gets to training camp next September.
“I’ve got to think he’s good,” a coach said. “Because if he wasn’t healed, you wouldn’t have heard anything from him.”
By this time of the year, the players who are playing completely healthy are probably in the minority. That’s why teams bring their doctors and medical staffs on the road with them in the post-season, in order to make sure not one iota of information leaks out to anyone in the media or the opposition. One coach suggested that the opponents usually know a lot more about who is injured and than they’re willing to let on, so perhaps Karlsson was telling everyone, the New York Rangers included, what they already know.
But that’s why most organizations, when it comes to injuries, speak with just one voice and that voice is usually that of the GM or the coach. Some teams don’t even allow their injured players to speak to the media and others put all their players under strict orders to never discuss injuries, whether those injuries are to themselves or teammates.
Whether this adds a layer of intrigue or is a factor in the Senators’ second-round series against the Rangers remains to be seen. A couple of things have become apparent here. One is that Karlsson is one very tough dude. The other is that if that’s what he can accomplish when he’s playing with an injury, it’s scary to think of what he might be able to do if he’s healed from that injury.
And what do the Rangers make of all this? Do they target Karlsson in the hopes of hampering him further?
“You’d have to think they’ll probably take a couple of shots and try to hit that foot,” another GM suggested. But as far as getting on Karlsson and trying to manhandle him, that’s a strategy that comes with a certain amount of risk.
Let’s say, for example, that you’ve decided you’re going to dump the puck into Karlsson’s corner and work him over. That’s all well and good, but Karlsson is likely to win the Norris Trophy this year for a reason. And a big part of that reason is that he has the ability to skate himself out of those situations. Or as he and Mike Hoffman proved, he can pass his way out of them, too. Dumping the puck into Karlsson’s corner means that he’s going to be getting the puck and if you’re playing against the Senators, the last thing you want to see is Erik Karlsson with the puck on his stick.
Chances are, at some point somebody in Ottawa is going to sit down and talk to Karlsson about his blunt honesty. Both coach Guy Boucher and Dorion were forced to address the issue after Karlsson made the disclosure. Whether Karlsson is healed or not, that’s not something any team likes having out there.
Meanwhile, Karlsson will try to be as brilliant in this round as he was in the first and it looks like it’s going to take a lot more than two hairline fractures to prevent him from doing that.
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