EDMONTON - Sheldon Souray's first season with the Edmonton Oilers began with excitement and anticipation, but it took just six games and a shoulder injury to turn high hopes to disappointment and frustration.
The Oilers announced Tuesday that Souray's season is over after surgery Friday to repair the damage - a separation of his left shoulder with a torn labrum and bicep. It's a campaign that never really got started.
"It's been a challenging season, definitely, in a lot of ways," said Souray, who spoke with reporters with his arm in a sling.
"It's not an ideal situation for anyone, especially in the circumstances I came here under."
Souray, 31, who signed a US$27-million, five-year deal with the Oilers last July, was injured Oct. 13 when he fell during a fight with Byron Ritchie of the Vancouver Canucks.
He missed 25 games before returning Dec. 11, but it became obvious it would take more time to remedy the problem. Souray missed several on-ice workouts, then a game against Nashville Jan. 3. After playing in 10 more games, he's been out since Jan. 29.
"It's one of those things that needed to be fixed sooner rather than later so it doesn't carry on to next year," Souray said. "That was really the only thing I was thinking of when I went to get it done."
A native of Elk Point, Alta., Souray had a career-high 26 goals and 64 points with the Montreal Canadiens in 2006-07. His 19 power-play goals set an NHL record for defencemen.
Souray's booming shot from the point was supposed to give the Oilers power play a jolt. He was expected to eat up 25 minutes of playing time a night in coach Craig MacTavish's first defensive pairing.
"Injuries are difficult at any time, but I know Shelly wanted to come in and make a big impact," said teammate Steve Staios. "I know he was ready to go. He wanted to come in and do well."
It never happened. Souray's numbers - three goals, seven assists for 10 points with a minus-7 rating in 26 games - aren't what the Oilers or big No. 44 had in mind.
"He signed the contract in the summer and he wanted to make a good first impression," Staios said.
"I know it's been difficult for him, but he's a guy who lays it on the line and the type of guy we want around here. He played through the injury for as long as he could."
Already without Shawn Horcoff (shoulder surgery) and Raffi Torres (knee surgery), the loss of Souray leaves a considerable hole on the blue-line as the Oilers try to scratch back into playoff contention.
"You want to make sure you give it enough time that it's not going to recur next year," MacTavish said.
He added that his team will have to fight through the injury problems.
"We are capable, with the group we have, of winning hockey games," MacTavish said.
Souray injured the same shoulder in his final game of last season with the Canadiens and had it repaired last spring.
"It's not like something I had fixed last year re-tore and it's going to be a recurring thing," he said. "It's totally different."
Souray will be in the sling for as long as six weeks before he can begin rehabilitation. He's confident this surgery will have him ready to go next season.
"Obviously, I wish things were a lot different than they are," he said. "But, like I said, it's easier for me to accept because I've dealt with this.
"It's been challenging and frustrating but I think at this point, there's no sense hiding anything. It is what it is. I'll be around the team, supporting them and encouraging them. I really have my sights on getting a good rehab and being ready as best I can for next year."