The worst fears of NHL general managers came true. The intense Olympic hockey competition produced some notable casualties.
The Blues got their nine players back from Sochi in one piece, but some Eastern Conference teams weren’t as fortunate. Here is the injury rundown:
John Tavares, C, Islanders: The NHL’s third-leading scorer suffered a season-ending knee injury playing for Canada against Latvia. The Islanders were destined to miss the playoffs this season and auction off talent before the trade deadline, but this was still a major blow. Who would spend money on Islanders tickets knowing Tavares isn’t playing?
Henrik Zetterberg, W-C, Red Wings: He tried to play through a chronic back injury for Sweden in Sochi. That turned out to be a bad idea. He returned home to have a fractured disk surgically removed. He is not expected back during the regular season. “In December, when Z was having some issues and we shut him down, we were aware there was a fragment in there,” Red Wings general manager Ken Holland said. “We were hopeful he could get through the season. Unfortunately, the fragment lodged itself in a nerve.”
Mats Zuccarello, W, Rangers: He suffered a left hand fracture playing for Norway. That injury will sideline the team’s leading scorer well into March. “Obviously everyone wants to play for their country,” Zuccarello told the New York Post. “It’s a fun tournament, but it’s not that fun when stuff like this happens. But it’s a part of hockey.”
Fedor Tyutin, D, Blue Jackets: He suffered an ankle injury playing for Russia and could sit out the next two to three weeks. He has been a defensive cornerstone for Columbus this season, scoring four goals and adding 20 assists with a plus-6 rating.
These injuries will factor into the NHL and NHLPA discussions about whether to continue playing in the Olympics. Islanders general manager Garth Snow threw has strong feelings about that.
“Are the IIHF or IOC going to reimburse our season-ticket holders now? It's a joke,” Snow said, according to Newsday. “They want all the benefits from NHL players playing in the Olympics and don't want to pay when our best player gets hurt.
“This is probably the biggest reason why NHL players shouldn't be in the Olympics, it should just be amateurs. And it could have happened to anyone; it just happened to be us that lost our best player. A lot of people pay to see John play. It wouldn't matter if we were 10 points clear of a playoff spot or 10 points out. We lost our best player and he wasn't even playing for us.”