After losing last season to injury, Kristian Huselius now blames the Blue Jackets for his health issues, but are they truly the only ones who should shoulder the blame? (Photo by John Grieshop/Getty Images)
To put it lightly, his remarks don't paint the organization in a good light, and it makes you wonder about the treatment being provided to other players by the Blue Jackets and their medical staff. How many players with repeated health issues during their time here (Mike Commodore, Derick Brassard, even Jeff Carter or Mark Dekanich) were in a position where they felt "rushed" to get back into a game - and then over-worked by the team once they did return?
Once, these concerns would have been pushed away under "toughness" because it was expected that players would go back out as quickly as possible, just like in other pro sports. But we're also seeing a generation of players from every major sport who have suffered increasing amounts of major medical issues and side effects later in life because of this attitude. Couple that to hockey's ongoing concerns over concussions and post-concussion recovery, and you have a conflict between the traditions and ideals of the past and the stark realities of now.
It's tempting to push the team under the bus here, but how many players have been minimizing or "pushing through" injuries for most of their careers, Juice included? How much was he actually talking to the coaches and training staff about his actual status, versus what he was "expected" to say?
Even though Huselius says he didn't take part in full practices before going back in, it's worth pointing out that Huselius had been skating with the team since early November, and working out on his own with training staff before that. Saying that he was not allowed to practice is, at best, somewhat misleading.
When you consider the many injuries Huselius suffered while in Columbus, it's worth pointing out that he was, essentially, paid $9.5 million dollars for 41 games over the last two years of his contract. He suffered a wrist injury, a high ankle sprain, the aforementioned pec tear (incurred while working out on his own, and not while playing), and finally the groin. The team shut him down for nearly a year, paid his salary, and are on the hook for his medical costs until such time as he's medically cleared to play hockey again. It's easy to see that they'd want to start seeing some production for that investment, but it's equally hard to imagine them deliberately pushing him back out early knowing that re-injury was a real possibility.
Also, let's not forget that while Huselius seems to be blaming the team for overstressing his groin, the injury he was recovering from was a shoulder injury - and one that did NOT prevent him from doing lower body workouts or continuing to skate before that point. (For details on what he couldn't do, I refer you back to Jo Innes' excellent writeup.) If Huselius wasn't in 100% shape for game action, there's a point where we need to ask how much of that was his responsibility.
Did then head coach Scott Arniel truly overplay Huselius in his first game back? Yeah, it's hard to say no when the evidence shows he saw more ice time than almost every other forward, and he has his own share of the blame for that. On the other hand, what kind of feedback did Juice give the medical staff when he was finally cleared to play? How much of the plan to get him back into the game that night was based on an evaluation that might have been flawed?
If Arniel and the club's medical staff weren't being given honest feedback by the player about his readiness to go, that's part of the problem. If Huselius wasn't maintaining himself properly, that's part of the problem. And if Huselius was on the bench and being asked by a trainer or coach if he's ready to go on the ice for a shift during that fist game back and he said "Yes, OK" instead of "No, wait" because he was afraid of a backlash in the locker room, that's part of the problem, too.
This is a messy, complex, literally painful issue, but I find it hard to put all of the blame on just one party, particularly when the team has continued to hold up their end of the responsibility towards Juice's medical treatment even while he has apparently decided to cut off as much communication as possible towards them.