When the 2017-18 NHL season starts on Oct. 4, so too will Karlsson-Watch as the Ottawa Senators anticipate the return of their captain following off-season foot surgery.
Erik Karlsson joined Tim & Sid on Thursday to shed some light on his health status and said he believes he’ll be back in the lineup in October — though it’s still too soon to circle a date on the calendar.
“Hopefully I can skate in the near future here and once I do that, we’ll have more of a timeline on where things actually are at,” explained Karlsson, who underwent a procedure to repair tendons in his left foot in June.
“At the end of the day, it’s something I’m not going to rush,” he said of his rehabilitation. “I’m going to make sure that when I do come back, I’m going to be 100 per cent and it’s not going to affect me moving forward in my career.”
Karlsson played through foot fractures (stemming from a blocked shot against the Flyers on March 28) and torn tendons this past spring, helping the Senators reach Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
“I think I’ll be back in October sometime. Whether it’s October 4 or if it’s October 24, I’m not sure. We’re not sure,” he said. “But it’s coming along and we haven’t run into anything unexpectedly from my rehab, so it’s all going according to the way we set it up to go.”
The 27-year-old is no stranger to injury and the frustrations that can come with a long rehabilitation process. He missed more than two months of action when he underwent surgery to repair a 70 per cent tear in his Achilles tendon in February 2013. (His initial diagnosis indicated he would miss three to four months.)
“When I look back now, my Achilles rehab and injury was only a fraction of what I’m going through right now. This is 10 times worse, just in terms of things I can’t do and things I’m going to have to do,” Karlsson explained. “I think with the Achilles, I got a little bit lucky somehow that I was able to play as fast as I was. Unfortunately, I came back a little bit too quick probably and I had to deal with it for a year after instead of probably waiting another month and then not having to deal with it for … 12 months after that.”
Karlsson, who has yet to put on skates as his foot continues to heal, said he won’t be making that mistake again.
“I’m going to make sure I take my time and not rush things and actually make sure that when I do come back, I’m not going to have to look after it the same way I had to look after my Achilles,” he said. “So that’s probably why I’m not going to be back as quick as people probably think I will.”
Despite his various ailments, Karlsson still managed two goals and 16 assists (some of which were really pretty) as the Senators surged through the post-season.
“I was so caught up in the moment and I didn’t really have time to think about what I went through,” Karlsson said. “I wanted to play, I wanted to make sure I could play, and I was fortunate enough to be able to play every game and do so well enough to help the team, which was my only concern.”
In the interview, which you can watch in full at the top of this post, Karlsson also talked about losing Marc Methot in the expansion draft, his frustration with the NHL’s Olympic decision, and how the post-season might have played out differently had he not been injured.
Here are some excerpts:
On missing his friend and defence partner Marc Methot, who was traded to Dallas after being selected by the Vegas Golden Knights in the expansion draft:
“It’s going to be extremely different to not have him, not only on the ice but in the locker-room and around the city.
“As sad as I am to see him go … I wish him all the best in Dallas and I know he’s going to do great there and the guys are going to love him there and I’m going to be jealous that they’re going to be able to spend more time with him than I will.”
On Methot’s value and what he brings to his team:
“Being the type of player and the style of hockey that he plays on a nightly basis and having the experience that he does because he’s been in the league for such a long time, is something that’s very underrated and why he’s so highly sought-after from other teams. Because you know how much he means to the team itself even though outwards, or in the media, he might not be the guy that gets the most coverage or the respect and things like that that he actually deserves.
It’s definitely a big loss for us and someone that we’re going to miss. I think that we’re going to have guys that step up and fill his shoes eventually, but a player like him and the style of play that he plays and being as experienced as he is, I think is hard for people to understand. It’s not like he’s going to go out there one night and not be good. He’s always going to do the things he does to the best of his ability — and to a team, that is invaluable.”
On the NHL’s Olympic decision, and whether or not the door is really closed:
“Yeah. It’s closed. It’s over. There’s no way we’re going to be able to go, unfortunately.
“I think it is a bad decision made by someone that obviously doesn’t know the magnitude of how much it actually means for the world of hockey and for the players that actually get the ability to go and play in the Olympics. You can have guys go and ask their owners if they can go and play … would I like to do that? Yeah, I would like to go and play in the Olympics. Am I going to? I’m not. I’m not going to leave in the middle of February, leave my teammates, go and ask if I can go and do something on my own. So yeah, the door is completely shut, unfortunately, for NHL players to go and play in the Olympics.”