It has been eight months since the Sharks last played, and the team benefitted from the extra rest.
Before Covid-19 paused the season, the Sharks suffered a series of disappointing injuries. As one of the most beat-up teams in hockey, they benefitted greatly from the extra rest.
Swedish defenseman Erik Karlsson has already seen his fair share of injuries since he arrived in San Jose.
In the 2018-2019 season, he dealt with a lingering groin injury that caused him to miss 29 regular-season games and game six of the Western Conference Final. At the end of the season, Karlsson underwent surgery to address the issue.
It was more of the same during the 2019-2020 season. After appearing like it would be a smooth and healthy season, he broke his thumb and underwent season-ending surgery.
While in Ottawa, he was revered as one of the best defensemen in hockey. But frequent injuries have derailed him from that status. This is the longest break he’s had in his career, and the extra rest could help him return to his old form.
New captain Logan Couture fractured his left ankle, leaving him in a hard cast for six weeks. In a post-game interview, he blamed himself for the injury.
“It was just a weird play,” Couture said. “[Vince Dunn] nudged me a little bit when I wasn’t expecting it. That’s my own fault. I gotta protect myself when I’m going hard into the boards like that. So, I take responsibility for not protecting myself the proper way.”
He was able to return and play the last seven games before the pause. However, he had a notable decline after being held to just three points during that stretch.
This is not the first time he has dealt with an ankle injury and is at a much higher risk to re-injure it going forward. These eight months off will ideally help decline that risk by a significant margin.
Perhaps the most important recovery process is with 27-year old center Tomas Hertl. At the end of January, he was ruled out for the season with a complete ACL and MCL tear.
Healing from a critical knee injury generally takes nine months to recover, along with additional time to get back into NHL shape.
It has been roughly 10-months since his surgery, and it will have been a full year by the time he sees the ice again. Not only giving him time to go through rehab completely but work on getting up to full speed during the off-season. In other words, it is unlikely that we will see a decline in play when the next season begins.
Ending the season in such a bizarre way was frustrating at the moment, but in the bigger picture, this was for the best.
The Sharks had about as bad of a season as you could imagine, and not having the production of Karlsson, Couture, and Hertl played a huge role in that. The extended off-season will be key in the recovery and future development for all of them.