VANCOUVER – “We love the Canucks. We love the fans, the organization. We’re so thrilled for Brock. We had hoped he could really catch Barzal for rookie of the year, but we have a lot to be thankful for.”
Brock Boeser is a special player, the best rookie to arrive in Vancouver in 25 years. He scored 29 goals as a rookie – 27 of them before he turned 21 on Feb. 25 – became the first rookie to be named MVP at the NHL All-Star Game and led his team in scoring even after all the opposing teams caught on to him.
But equally important, Boeser provided hope to a franchise desperate for it. He is what the future looks like, the better days ahead for the Canucks.
And when you think in this context, it’s understandable how the Canucks and nearly everyone, including Boeser’s mom but probably not the winger himself, felt lucky Tuesday even as the team announced the kid from Burnsville, Minn., is done for the season due to a small fracture in his lower back.
Officially, Boeser’s absence is listed as four to six weeks but he won’t play again this season.
He is not going to catch New York Islander Mathew Barzal in the rookie-of-the-year race. He may not even be a finalist now. Boeser is not going to break Pavel Bure’s Canucks rookie record of 34 goals, which has stood since 1992.
But in a few weeks, Boeser should start training again and when next season begins the Canucks will have a fully healthy second-year player who may be able to challenge Winnipeg Jet Patrik Laine for the “Rocket” Richard Trophy over the next 10 years or so.
“He’s got a small fracture, but he’s going to be fine,” Canucks coach Travis Green told reporters the day after Boeser left Rogers Arena in an ambulance. “He walked out of the hospital.
“Brock’s had a great rookie season and the good news is he’ll have a full recovery.”
Boeser was injured in the final minute of regulation time Monday when he tried to finish a check on Islander Cal Clutterbuck and was launched backward against the frame of an open door at the Vancouver bench.
He immediately reached for his lower back, then lay motionless on the ice while being attended by trainer Jon Sanderson. Boeser was helped off the ice, then taken to hospital after the Canucks won 4-3 in overtime.
If you think fans were worried, imagine how Laurie Boeser felt watching the game on television in Minnesota.
“It was pretty scary because he’s never just laid on the ice like that,” she said. “To be honest, he’s been very fortunate that he hasn’t had a lot of injuries through the years of playing. We’ve really been blessed that way. But last night when he really wasn’t moving at all … I work in an orthopedic clinic and I know about things that can happen with the back and the neck.
“I was very concerned, but it ended up being something that will heal and allow him to get back to skating again.”
Twice earlier this season it looked like the Canucks might lose Boeser to a serious injury. He literally crawled off the ice when struck in the foot by Calgary Flame Mark Giordano’s shot on Dec. 17, but did not miss a game. He missed a Feb. 9 start in Carolina due to a hand injury but bounced back and played two nights later.
Odds and medical science just caught up to Boeser on Monday.
When asked about criticism from “armchair doctors” – presumably they report to the Canucks’ innumerable armchair general managers and armchair coaches – who berated the team on social media for not immobilizing Boeser and stretchering him off the ice, Green said: “Well, the real doctors were on the ice. I’ve got a lot of faith in those guys. They’re the best of the best and they went protocol all the way, and did a good job with it.”
Green’s immediate challenge as coach is maintaining the energy and positivity in his team since it traded for Brendan Leipsic and Tyler Motte on Feb. 26. Leipsic has five points in three games and the Canucks have been both entertaining and effective, going 1-0-2. The Arizona Coyotes visit Rogers Arena on Wednesday.
“Unless you’re in the battle and understand it, it’s really hard to explain,” Green said of the psychology of injuries. “These guys, they go through a lot. When you go through pro hockey and you play in the NHL … you see a lot. When a player’s down and he’s right in front of your bench, you definitely worry about your teammate. But guys are also able to flip the switch and get back to playing. It might sound harsh, but injuries are part of the game. You know that ever since you start playing.”
Among Canucks forwards, Boeser, Sven Baertschi (shoulder) Markus Granlund (ankle), Loui Eriksson (ribs) and Brendan Gaunce (foot) are all done for the season. Winger Derek Dorsett (back) was forced to abruptly retire last fall.
“We know what kind of player he is now,” Canucks captain Henrik Sedin said of Boeser. “He did it for 60-plus games. (The injury) shouldn’t take away from the season he’s had. He’ll miss the next few weeks, but he’ll be ready to go next year.
“He has shown that he’s going to be a star in this league. This was good news today.”