MONTREAL — The Montreal Canadiens had all of their fans rushing to check the calendar Friday afternoon after announcing that forward Max Pacioretty will take 12 weeks to recover from a knee injury.
Pacioretty, 26, summers in Florida, where he hurt himself in an off-ice training session Thursday. No other details were made available, other than the fact that he won’t require surgery.
The 2012 Bill Masterton Award winner (for perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey) hasn’t been too lucky on the injury front throughout his career. A recent concussion kept him out of the last week of the regular season and the first game of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and he’s suffered a litany of others over the years that have seen him cultivate a reputation as a freakishly fast healer.
Barely six weeks after suffering a fractured cervical vertebra (C4) and a concussion in March of 2011 — after Boston Bruins defenceman Zdeno Chara hit him into a stanchion at the Bell Centre — Pacioretty was cleared to return to action. He was deprived of the opportunity when the Canadiens bowed out in the first round of the playoffs, losing to the Bruins in seven games.
Fans and analysts had serious doubts he’d ever be the same after the devastating hit, but he met the media on the eve of the off-season and boldly proclaimed he’d be “better than ever.”
Pacioretty followed through on his promise, notching career highs in goals (33) and assists (32) in 2011-12 leading to his Masterton nomination. In October of that season, he also suffered ligament damage in his wrist, and though it was announced he’d be out indefinitely with the injury, he returned the very next game and registered two goals and an assist.
And, just eight days after undergoing an emergency appendectomy in January of 2013, Pacioretty surprised Canadiens fans again by returning ahead of schedule.
Pacioretty’s seemingly supernatural regeneration ability is a comfort to Canadiens fans downplaying his latest injury on Twitter, but none of it guarantees that history will repeat itself, as a considerably anemic Montreal offence — ranked 20th in 2014-15 — faces the prospect of not having its best scorer available when the season gets underway Oct. 7 in Toronto.
And if Pacioretty can be ready on time, missing out on summer workouts and training camp could understandably put him behind the eight ball.
A current NHLer with more than 15 seasons of experience under his belt suggested playing catch-up would be less of a concern for a player that averages as much ice time per game as Pacioretty does (19:23 in 2014-15).
“Some guys can never catch up to the other players; especially with how intense summer training has become and how well-conditioned everyone is coming into camp,” said the player.
Pacioretty accounted for 17 per cent of the Canadiens’ goals in 2014-15. He completed his third 30-plus goal campaign in his last four seasons, added 30 assists, took 48 more shots than any other member of the team, and also led the league in plus/minus (+38).
It would be an understatement to say the Canadiens would miss Pacioretty should any hiccups in his recovery cost him more time. In an Eastern Conference that saw the last playoff qualifier finish with 98 points, his absence — short as it may be — could be very costly.