I know that even writing this makes me sound like a crazy
person. I understand that completely and accept all the barbs that will
undoubtedly come my way. I am, like many of you who remain silent, a McDavid
That is to say that I believe Connor McDavid’s collar bone
is sufficiently healed to play in the NHL again and the team is being overly
cautious with him to their own detriment.
When I tell people that I think McDavid’s clavicle is
perfectly healthy today, I get two kinds of reactions. It’s either “yeah,
probably” or it’s “you’re a (sic) idiot. Shut up and let him heal.” The first
group are where a lot of people fall. It’s likely McDavid is healthy, but it’s
obviously not that big of a deal to them if the team waits around longer than
necessary, “just in case.” The second group bothers me.
It doesn’t bother me that people would want a wounded
superstar to heal. That’s completely reasonable. I’m not advocating that McDavid returns
from his injury at 80%, or while there’s a great risk for re-injury. Not at all.
That would be horrible. I’m not a monster.
What bothers me is that, for a lot of people, simply
questioning the Oilers is treated like a crime. As if there has never been a
person in a position of power who made a decision that was either wrong or
unnecessary. I am just not built in such a way that I can be told something
without being given the reasons why and accept it as gospel truth. However,
I’ve come to realize that this mindset makes certain people very uncomfortable.
He Isn’t Injured?
This is where I admit that I’ve been working on a tinfoil
hat (not flat-brimmed). I believe that right now Connor McDavid has a clavicle
that is ready for NHL action. No, I am not a medical doctor. No, I have not
snuck into his doctor’s office and looked at the X-rays. I haven’t even been given
an insider scoop that states the team thinks he’s ready.
And yet, here we are.
It all rests on a few sets of information we have about his
injury. They are:
1) The nature of his injury as reported
2) The time in which that injury takes to recover
3) The state of his recovery as reported
4) The amount of time he has been cleared for contact
Basically, it relies on everything we’ve been told or seen
with our own eyes disregarding only the official words coming from within the
When Connor McDavid slid heavily into the boards with the
full weight of two Philadelphia Flyers he was making look
like Junior B players, our hearts collectively sank. Obviously something was
wrong. There was indeed a tiny flicker of hope right after the collision
because he picked up his stick with the affected arm and stayed on the bench.
As we all know that was false hope. McDavid had suffered a broken left clavicle.
It didn’t take long for news to surface that the Oilers’ super
rookie needed surgery. This was going to be a standard plate & screw
operation, but going in they were going to give the medical team a chance to
verify whether or not the damage was more extensive than they feared.
The great news, as reported by TSN heavyweight Darren Dreger,
was that the break was “clean.” There were no other complications, including
damage to the soft tissue surrounding the area. There were no issues with the
socket, his labrum, or any other vaguely latin sounding nouns. This was the
best case scenario for the Oilers.
Since my medical training ended with awkward fake chest
compressions and mouth to mouth during swimming lessons as a child, I have no
choice but to believe qualified medical professionals on the topic of
recovering from broken clavicles. On a personal note, I’ve always believed that
using sick days is code for “fire me”, but I think that’s because my mom never
let me stay home from school unless I was moments from death. That’s neither
here nor there.
In any event, the medical community keeps coming up with
8-12 weeks for average recovery time for a broken collarbone. This is repeated
ad nauseam. For Tony Romo, Jonas Brodin, Pat Kane, everybody. The timeline for
return is always set to between 8-12 weeks.
Now, let’s keep in mind that the difference between 8 and 12
weeks is pretty large. It’s either one number or one that is 50% larger than
that. That’s a big swing, but with athletes recovery is very often closer to eight than it is to 12 weeks. Here’s an example of a few different clavicle injuries from a Sportsnet piece. Note that Pat Kane returned after seven weeks. Greinke returned after five. Rodgers
returned after seven weeks.
So, yes, while it’s true that most players are told 8-12 weeks is
normal recovery time, the reality of the situation is that these players do not
tend to require three full months to heal. And, Tomo Romo aside, many return back
with very little complication.
McDavid’s Recovery Specifically?
All this average time nonsense is meaningless because we’re
dealing with a very specific player who may or may not be healing on “average”
time. Maybe McDavid is a particularly slow healer. If that’s the case then
maybe he naturally fits at the further end of that 8-12 week recovery schedule.
No conspiracy, just not enough calcium (or whatever).
Except…this doesn’t really fit with his known recovery from
broken bones. After breaking his hand in his final year of Junior, McDavid
returned on the early side of the recovery window given for his injury. In
fact, he had been practicing earlier than expected after having his cast
removed less than a month after sustaining the injury.
But what about the collar bone? By late November he was
already “weeks ahead of schedule,” as per Mark Spector. He was working out,
lifting weights, doing upper body work. Directly from his mouth he told
reporters that he was recovering extremely well and was well ahead of schedule.
Specifically he said, “There’s been kind of a timeline that you try and follow
and you try and reach each checkmark or progression faster than the day they
said. I’ve been doing that for a little bit now, so I think, for sure, ahead of
So here is a kid who has healed from broken bones earlier
than forecasted just one year prior, underwent successful surgery which verified
there were no other complications, whose timeline for return based on all of
the other cases of this injury falls between 8-12 weeks, and who was weeks
ahead of schedule in November, and ahead of all the benchmarks in January.
Cleared For Contact?
The final tell that McDavid’s recovery time should be over
is the fact that he has been cleared for contact since early January. After
complete radio silence, the Oilers returned McDavid to practice with his teammates
at the beginning of the New Year. Almost immediately he returned to battle
As we heard through various scattered reports before his
formal return, McDavid had been skating for quite some time before January.
However, once he returned to practice with the Oilers and travel with the team
it was quite obvious that he was close.
Standard procedure is that once a player resumes skating
with the club there are roughly two weeks before getting back into game action. It
was that way for Nail Yakupov. It has been that way for as long as I can
remember. It was not that way with McDavid.
Here’s a quote from our own Robin Brownlee, who covered the team for many years and much closer than I ever have.
That said, even allowing that no two injuries are
exactly the same and that no two players will recover from surgery at
exactly the same pace, I don’t recall an Oiler player taking more than
10 days to return to game action after being cleared for contact by team
doctors — barring a setback because of that contact. Ten days from
Wednesday puts McDavid back in the line-up Jan. 16 against the Calgary
Flames, 74 days after his surgery.
Despite being cleared to participate in the contact
associated with practice, the Oilers have held McDavid out of games. For what reason exactly, only they know.
Taken together, the injury, the average recovery time,
McDavid’s own admission that he’s well ahead of schedule, the fact that he’s
been cleared for contact for almost an entire month, I’m left with no choice
but to conclude that McDavid is physically capable of playing in the NHL today.
McDavid has been out for 11 weeks nursing an injury that is
not preventing him from engaging in physical contact or rigorous exercise. It’s
been 11 weeks for an injury that he is supposedly weeks ahead of, recovery-wise,
and ought to only take 12 weeks at the long end.
And the best part for the Oilers is that nobody is going to
blame them for waiting longer than necessary. The team would be put on blast
for “rushing” McDavid back to NHL action (three weeks after he’s ready for
contact). There’s an oddity in the schedule that allows for an extended period
of rest if they can make it to the All-Star break.
Frankly, given Edmonton’s disturbing injuries this year, I don’t
even blame the team for hoping some extra time will make McDavid’s bones reach
125% strength. It’s only natural that this team in particular is once bitten
twice shy with their star players’ return from the IR.
I’m simply stating that McDavid is healthy, could play today
if the team desired, and there is nothing that they have said that outweighs
the evidence for that. If he isn’t weeks ahead of schedule, why was it reported
multiple times? If his recovery was supposed to be longer than average, why
were there no complications reported? If doctors are the ones preventing
McDavid from playing, why have they allowed him to participate in the kind of
contact that could conceivably re-injure him in practice?
The truth is that McDavid is healthy today. And it’s also
the truth that the Oilers can hold off for the extra two games this affects them
before they can bring him back without a single person accusing them of rushing
the young man.
Now let me get back to adjusting this tinfoil hat.