Toronto Maple Leafs: Let Your Injured Players Heal

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 27: Toronto Maple Leafs Defenceman Travis Dermott (23) leaves the ice with an injury during the third period of the NHL regular season game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 27, 2019, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 27: Toronto Maple Leafs Defenceman Travis Dermott (23) leaves the ice with an injury during the third period of the NHL regular season game between the Edmonton Oilers and the Toronto Maple Leafs on February 27, 2019, at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, ON, Canada. (Photo by Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images) /
facebooktwitterreddit

The Toronto Maple Leafs have a lot of injured players right now.

Travis Dermott is recovering from significant shoulder surgery. Zach Hyman is rehabbing from a torn ACL. Auston Matthews underwent a procedure in late May to remove leftover medical equipment from a prior surgery, and John Tavares was forced to bow out of the World Championship around the same time due to a strained oblique, as well.

Each player mentioned above is incredibly important to the future of the Maple Leafs. From their two franchise centres, to a defenceman with top-four potential, to one of their best two-way forwards, a large chunk of Toronto’s core finds themselves on the shelf at the moment. These are not bumps and bruises, either. Rather, they are potentially season (and career)-swaying ailments that must be monitored with the utmost care.

Matthews and Tavares are otherwise thought to be healthy for training camp. The expectation remains that the superstar pair will begin the regular season as they normally do, barring any unforeseen setbacks. As for Hyman and Dermott, however? They are far less lucky.

Given the severity of their respective injuries, both players are currently in the midst of six-month-long recovery processes that, even if their rehab remains on schedule, will see them return to game action well over a month into the season, at best. As such, the Maple Leafs will trot out the gate shorthanded once again, forcing them to tread water while lacking two highly influential players.

Entering a season in which a Stanley Cup is the only acceptable outcome, that is obviously less than ideal. And with the weight of expectations pushing down upon them from day one, there will likely be an urge for the organization to rush Hyman and Dermott back as soon as possible.

Here’s the thing: DON’T.

Last night provided perhaps the ultimate example of why caution in sports is key.

After sitting out over a month with a reported “calf strain”, Golden State Warriors superstar, Kevin Durant, returned to game action on Monday with his team’s season on the line. It was a move as risky as they come.

Reports surrounding Durant’s recovery process had been increasingly pessimistic during the weeks leading up to last night’s return, casting an overall sentiment around the series that the 10-time All-Star’s season was otherwise over. But Golden State needed Durant. Their hopes hinged upon him. And despite being at clearly less than 100%, Durant stepped back onto the floor.

Minutes later, this happened.

The term “worst case scenario” comes to mind when watching the clip above. Regardless of which doctors cleared him and whether or not Durant himself played a hand in the decision, he should never have been allowed to play. Some things are more important than basketball and, by extension, sports on the whole.

Durant is heading into free agency at season’s end, previously thought to command a max contract that would lay the foundation for the offseason and his personal future. Now, that future is unclear.

Early reports posit that Durant is thought to have suffered an Achilles injury. And thanks to a decision that was clouded by immediate circumstances, one of the sport’s premier talents will be sidelined for at least one year, with the potential that he never returns back to his peak form.

In a split second, his career changed forever.

This was an egregious error. One the Maple Leafs cannot afford to make.

Of course, the Maple Leafs’ medical staff has laid a lengthy track record of caution around their players. But this is not simply in the realm of injury recovery. This pertains to everything, from load management, to in-season usage, to personnel deployment based on the schedule.

Would Durant have suffered his initial calf injury were he to have sat out the odd night against mediocre opponents in the dog days of the season with the Warriors’ playoff spot all but locked in?

We may never know, but it sure wouldn’t have hurt, either.

The Maple Leafs should take this as a lesson. Frederik Andersen does not need to stop 40 shots versus Anaheim on a Tuesday night in January. Ron Hainsey – were he to return this summer – should not log upwards of 20 minutes on the second half of back-to-backs. They just don’t need to. It’s as simple as that.

These are obvious decisions, ones which should have been implemented last season but now have the opportunity to be rectified in this coming one. Learn from the errors of others. Understand the gravity of the health of your stars. Set yourself up for success.

The regular season is a marathon, not a sprint. And if Durant’s catastrophic injury last night can teach us anything, it’s that this marathon needs to be managed a whole lot better.

Next. Mitch Marner is Not Different. dark

Thanks for reading!