Is anybody else just a little bit nervous about the state of the left shoulder of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins? I thought so.
History aside – a shoulder injury and a member of the Edmonton Oilers, what could possibly go wrong? – Nugent-Hopkins will spend this week in town to rest and strengthen the shoulder he injured against the Chicago Blackhawks last season while awaiting the results of an MRI.
This comes on the heels of Nugent-Hopkins being named to Team Canada’s selection camp on Monday. Adding to the drama, the Oilers aren’t saying much about his status (do they ever?) because they can’t comment on players during the lockout. What little we get comes by way of Hockey Canada scout Kevin Prendergast.
"From what we understand, there’s nothing structurally wrong with his shoulder. It’s just been bothering him a bit from last year," Prendergast said today. "They said they were giving him an MRI to make sure. We’ll see when they get the results back. We’d rather know sooner than later."
Wouldn’t we all?
It goes without saying, at least it should, that if there’s even a sliver of doubt about the status of his shoulder, the Oilers shouldn’t let Nugent-Hopkins near Team Canada, or send him back on the ice in Oklahoma City, for that matter. That’s a no-brainer . . . right?
If Nugent-Hopkins, 19, who has 20 points in the 19 games he’s played with the Barons, doesn’t represent Canada at this WJC he’s out of eligibility, so he won’t get another chance. If a week of rest and rehab and the results of the MRI don’t show that he’s absolutely 100 per cent ready for that opportunity, the last chance aspect doesn’t matter a bit.
Nugent-Hopkins has 15 or so seasons ahead of him in the NHL and if he continues to develop as many people believe he will, he’ll likely get another crack at wearing a Team Canada jersey – if not at the next Winter Olympics then at the games after that (assuming we still have NHLers in the mix).
What the Oilers don’t need is to see those next 15 NHL seasons jeopardized by a decision that rushes Nugent-Hopkins into the international junior spotlight even a little bit. They don’t need another franchise cornerstone with a bum shoulder. They already have one in Taylor Hall, who struggled with chronic problems for years until having surgery to repair it.
That’s a no-brainer . . . right?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.