SO HONEST IT HURTS

Fans growing frustrated watching Ryan Whitney of the Edmonton Oilers struggle to bounce back from ankle surgery and find his game have nothing on the hobbled defenseman. He feels your pain, and then some.

That became abundantly clear today as Whitney met with reporters in a hallway outside the Oilers dressing room after the team skated in Leduc to discuss the tendinitis that kept him out of Tom Renney’s line-up in a 5-3 loss to the Vancouver Canucks Monday.

The latest setback for Whitney – a right ankle that hasn’t healed and come around as expected since doctors re-attached a torn tendon 11 months ago – has the usually upbeat blueliner feeling down and out, even if he tried to put a positive spin on how he’s feeling these days.

You think it sucks to watch Whitney struggling on the ice like he’s skating on two left feet without the ability to play the way he’s shown he’s capable of with the Oilers fading fast in the Western Conference?

Listen to him.

ANATOMY OF THE INJURY

"I had a really uncommon injury last year," said Whitney, who has played in 17 games this season and in just 52 of Edmonton’s last 117 games. "The surgery went well, it was a success, but it doesn’t happen very often so there’s some question marks.

"I had an MRI and the surgery looks good, but my ankle is just so weak right now. So, because of that, it’s pretty unstable. It’s tough to skate. It’s pronating in (rolling inward on the arch of the foot) is the problem.

"Until it strengthens, which, really, I don’t know when that will be, they (doctors) think it will definitely happen, so that’s a good sign. Until that really stops, my foot will always fall in and that puts pressure on that tendon, the post-tib tendon (posterior tibial tendon).

"That causes tendinitis after pressure is being put on it so often skating. The unfortunate thing for me is I haven’t been able to skate yet. I don’t feel right out there, you know? At the same time, I’m still playing on a foot, or little more than a foot."

BEATING HIMSELF UP

"I’m still an average defenseman in this league," said Whitney said, who had 27 points in 35 games last season but has just three assists in 17 games this season.

"Unfortunately for myself and the team and Tambi (Steve Tambellini), I’m paid a lot more than an average defenseman. So, it’s a tough time mentally and physically just because you don’t know when it will get better.

"When it’s unstable, the problem of the foot falling in, I can play. It’s no issue. I’m by no means, I think everyone’s aware, playing at the level I did last year. I can. It’s not for lack of effort. It’s just the foot isn’t exactly doing what I need it to do.

"When that pain’s there, though, I just can’t do it. It’s falling in and then there’s pain, so it’s just like two things added up. That was just the past few weeks. That’ll get better and I’ll be able to play, it’s just I need that ankle to get stronger to get back to the player this team needs me to be and that I want to be and I’m paid to be.

"It’s very frustrating. Still, it’s just about me going, basically, to the ends of the earth to find a solution, whether it be this month or the summer. I just feel bad not playing, you know, at the level the team needs me because, you know, we’re losing and . . . it’s just a tough time. I’m not losing hope by any means, it’s just physically and mentally kind of draining."

UNCERTAIN ROAD AHEAD

I asked Whitney, who will accompany the Oilers on their six-game road trip, if this is something he can play through or if he’s facing an extended period of staying out of the line-up to heal properly.

"I can play through it," he said, not sounding convincing. "I don’t see, really, a time soon when I’ll be 100 per cent. A lot of guys aren’t playing 100 per cent, so that’s not necessarily a big thing. I can play through, like I said. The foot not being, you know, completely 100 per cent balanced and stable.

"As tough as that is to explain to you guys, I know it’s easier for me to feel it than explain it. I can play through it. It’s just about mentally being as pissed off as, I’m sure, people who are watching me, that I’m not playing as good as I have or could.

"It’s not anything I’m not doing off the ice or on the ice. It’s just when you go to do certain things and have quick movements and pivot and stop certain ways and it physically doesn’t happen. It’s just kind of an empty feeling. I can play through it. It’s just, like I said, me playing average hockey and it’s not really what I’m paid to do."

THIS WILL TAKE TIME

As I said off the top, and you can take this to the bank, Whitney in no more accepting of how he’s playing, despite obviously mitigating circumstances and physical challenges, than fans are. This is eating away at him.

I was prompted in the scrum today to suggest that Whitney might want to cut himself some slack over this. The issue, after all, goes well beyond just "sucking it up" and playing through some pain. If only it was that easy.

"There’s a difference between feeling good out there and feeling balanced, which I never feel this year, and playing poorly and getting into it," Whitney said. "The difference between that and what I’m feeling in not even being balanced and not even being . . .

"So, it’s like you’re playing poorly but there’s no end in sight because I’m going to be battling this, right, for the next little while. If you feel good out there and it’s just timing, yeah, you give yourself time.

"But when you know you’ve got to get used to this, I’ve got to learn how to play like this . . . You know, you’ve got to learn, like, to cover guys different. It’s almost like you’ve got to cheat in certain ways because you can’t do certain things you’ve always been accustomed to doing. It’s really tough to explain. I feel bad, but that’s me doing my best."

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • From Day 1 of his arrival here, Whitney has said and done all the right things about wanting to play here and stay here and be a part of the rebuild.

    I think players like that are worth investing some time and patience in.

    Plus, to be more pragmatic about it, I’m not entirely sure how much a skating defenceman with a wonky wheel would command on the trade market.

    Either way, my gut says that we’ll be fine with Whitney but it would be nice to get him back playing at the level he’s capable of playing ASAFP.

    • longbottom/P.Biglow

      I will agree here. As everyone here and in management never figured the Oilers for the Play-offs before the season then maybe let this play out and let Whitney get healthy.

      As far as comments that any defenceman would be better options than Peckham and Petry from so called fans lets think about this for half a second. Gilbert was worth a bag a pucks last year and Smid wasn’t worth that yet they debateably are our top two this year. maybe these fans should wait and see what happens here.

      • They are the two best defenseman on arguable the worst defense in the league, they would be second pairing at best on a playoff team as for Petry and Peckham they would be better served playing bigger minutes without the worry of constantly giving the puck up in the AHL

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not much sense playing Whitney in his present state if he remains ineffective . His condition may change within the year or maybe not till next year, if ever. He is still young enough to wait on till next season to see if he can rebound . It will take a long time before our defence is well rounded enough to think of letting him go elsewhere . It’s not like we can trade him at this time for a fair market value of his contract . We have a very new , underskilled and inexperienced defence as it stands now’ with or even without Whitney being 100% . Other older veterans are not doing the job either and most are playing very little or are in suspension . With Whitney never being 100% again , is he worth holding onto into the future ?

    Our defensive core we cannot rely on due to questionable ability and still “green” newbies trying to make their mark . Musil, Klefbom and Marincin will push them all next season even though they may not still be ready -thats just how weak our defensive core is most nights .Teubert remains a question mark at this stage . Plante looks like another Penner project . Had Whitney remained healthy during his time here it would have been a good trade as it upgraded our size . We suffered more with the mishandling of Glencross ,and to another level with Souray . We have as yet not replaced the two of them adequately .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I remember Robin mentioned there was something passed along to a media member or two soon after the trade was made or when Ryans first Oiler injury occured last season. The issue was about a pre-existing foot condition.

    Didn’t think much of it at the time but i just laughed it off thinking…wouldn’t it just be the Oilers luck.

    With a definate lack of on ice leadership on this club most nights, the carnage we’re witnessing must be the not so surprising result. Everyone’s marching to the beat of their own drummer with nobody in charge.

  • oilredemption

    Hemsky, Gagner, Petry, Gernat, First Round selection(2012 + 2013), 2nd Round Selection (2013 Ana’s) to St.Louis for Pietranglo and Stewart… We need a Dependable depth RW behind Eberle and lord knows we need a top 4 d man. Make it happen Tambo!

    • Quicksilver ballet

      If you’re John Davidson, why would you make this deal. You may win the quantity war with a move like that but St.Louis is surely sending away the best players involved in that deal. St.Louis has been reloading for 5 yrs already as well, why would they be interested in futures, even if they are first rounders?

      The Oilers best hope at moving out some of the quantity, not quality players is to let a team like Washington or Detroit back up their GMC Silverado to the dock doors and take what they want for playoff depth. If they aren’t wearing 4,14,93 and 94 on their back, they should be available.

  • oilredemption

    Scott Hannan was signed on Aug. 13th for 1 year at $1M (to Calgary no less) and is playing 20 minutes a night.

    There is no excuse for management’s failure to ensure that there was additional depth on the back end. Defensemen in the NHL get hurt regularly, that’s a fact. The team being in a position to play it’s game against Vancouver on Boxing Day with 3 rookies and Peckham on the back end means that management either:

    a) was prepared to go through another losing season once injuries hit – it which case they flat out lied to fans about pushing for the playoffs; or

    b) is incompetent for failing to account for injuries and for not having adequate depth at that position.

    Either way it is inexcusable. If the fans tolerance for promises and magic beans is waning how do you think it sits with the payers? I’m sure Hemsky is dying to resign when he sees the decisions by mgmt. Must thrill the young guys too.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I don’t mind RB pumping his own tires about being the first guy to question 6’s durability just because it raises the question that if a reporter can do that in two days is it something the Oilers “brain”:) trust also did before pulling the trigger?

    I gotta give 6 credit for being upfront about how much more he’d like to do and I wish the best for him. Only things I would say is no one thinks or expects him to be as good as he was last year and he’s giving himself a little too much credit for thinking his play has been ‘average’ this year.

    It’s been terrible.

    I think the guy’s a little better than 77 when healthy – and that’s fine and acceptable by me – so it’s not like I think he’s forgotten how to play; for instance he still makes an outstanding first pass. But his skating’s hindered to the point currently where he can’t even cover his man in front. He’s been awful and given the news on his health or lackthereof we might never see a ‘worth the money whitney” over the duration of his Oilers contract.

  • Is there any chance we could put him on IR so that he can spend whatever time is required ( perhaps the whole year and the summer) rehabbing his foot? This way he would not count against the cap and we could go head hunting for a Suter like player?

    It seems to me there is no point in him playing if it causes him physical pain and psychological issues around his performance. Based on his abilities, he is a good reclamation project……even if this means a year.

  • Please correct me if I’m wrong, as I’m doing this from memory of reading several articles – Whitney’s second surgery was the same as the first – to correct his high arches that were birth defects and causing him pain. His current injury “tendonitis” is because he torn the tendon which may or may not have been caused by the high arch problem he had fixed.

    So realistically he may have wrecked the ankle regardless of the previous surgeries, which means no one could have predicted he would tear a ligament.

    Why the argument over who predicted what? Brownlee reported on the potential second surgery. Whitney is now unfortunately dealing with tendonitis because his repaired ligament isnt strong enough.

    I give all the credit in the world to Whitney to telling us why his play has been bad this year.

  • Merry Christmas Tiger. Hindsight is always 100%. Tambo needs not apologize for trading for a player who was health risk. The deal was based on what was then current information. Your right, but your wrong to dwell on something we can’t change. Lets work the problem. Lets find solutions not more problems.Focus on the positives and see the progress we are making with and without Ryan Whitney. I see 3 players coming into thier own and who are on the cusp of NHL stardom. The defence will eventually sort itself out. And so will the rest of our issues. Patience and time. Rome wasn’t built in a day. Whitney is out. Fine. Move on. I have. Bring on the OilerKillers(The Minny Wild).

    • The deal was based on the information known to Tambellini. Did he know about the foot defect? He should have or he didn’t do his job. Isn’t this what everyone likes to say about LA’s problem with the Fraser deal?

      If he knew about it and consulted experts and decided with their advice to take the risk, then I will take it back.

      I’m not dwelling on anything, all I did was take exception to the claim that this issue has anything to do with hindsight. Besides, what is the point of focusing on the positives? What stimulating conversation that would be.

      Also…how will the defense sort itself out exactly? I am well aware of Lowe’s 10 year timeline so I don’t expect much, but if anyone thinks we are going to win a bunch of cups through nothing but the draft they are kidding themselves.

      It’s much easier to be patient when you believe your teams GM is competent. I do not believe Tambellini is competent.

      I do hope Whitney can get through this though. I know what he feels like. On a lesser scale perhaps, but it didn’t feel like less to me when I was going through something similar.

      • Wanyes bastard child

        I don’t know how to do the awesome select a certain quote thingy so i’ll go with this…

        “Besides, what is the point of focusing on the positives? What stimulating conversation that would be.”

        (and yeah I know I’m missing the rest of your post, fact is though, I’m a positive guy)

        “Hey dude, see Eberle’s goal last night?”

        “Yeah! Freakin’ awesome and the way the Nuge set him up for it!”

        “Couldn’t have been done without Hall storming in the way he did though. Remember that game a few nights ago when Hall stormed past the D with a head of steam?”

        “Then dished off for that sweet RNH backhander?”

        “Thats the one!”

        “Fckin’ awesome dude.”

        Who says focusing on the positives can’t lead to a stimulating conversation 😛

        • Not really. You can only say “awesome” to each other so many times before it gets tiresome.

          I want to talk about hockey, whether it be the on ice aspect or the executive aspect doesn’t matter, but There is absolutely no point to devoting a website to having an I-Like-me-team circle jerk.

          Besides, disagreement is only unpleasant if you get personal or take disagreement as personal. There is nothing inherently unpleasant in a conversation between divergent viewpoints. I usually prefer it.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Robin,

    I don’t usually agree with these two clowns, but DSF and Tigerunderglass are indeed correct to suggest that Lubo was and still is worth more than Whitney (due to his health issues). If there was any prior knowledge by Oiler Management of his birth defect and/or the possiblilty of a reoccurring health issue, then how can you argue Whitney over Lubo? Now, I did not have the inside information, but you did on this high arch issue and therefore it likely that Tambo did too. Hindsight is 20/20, but this deal wasn’t a great one. If I had a bet, in 3 years, both players will be ex-NHLers.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    Whitney’s comments give a glimpse of how certain players are sensitive to perceptions about their salaries in comparison to the return their team is getting.

    For a guy to talk openly about this, you know that when he IS healthy, he’s going to give the team his very best.

    I wish Ryan Whitney health and an even keel emotionally for the New Year.