Monday, March 16, 2009

Milking It?

1) When we hear that term we usually hear it in regard to a person making a hurt or injury out to be worse than it really is. Basically referring to malingerers or hypochondriacs. So where does that fit into a NHL blog? Easy, we have seen two recent injury situations in the NHL where the player in question may have been held back from a return because of the team's precarious salary cap issues.

2) As most of you already probaby know, when a player is injured seriously and placed on long term injured reserve his salary no longer counts against the team's salary cap number. As an aside, we and everyone else for that matter, would benefit if the NHL simply published that number for each and every team! We discussed that last September here-> Anyway, if the injured player is getting close to being healthy the team isn't in dire need of his services AND the team could use some salary cap relief, what we have seen in at least these two instances, the team has allowed the player to remain inactive LONGER than we would have seen without a salary cap.

3) The first instance was Danielle Briere of the Flyers. Dan has missed considerable time with a recurring/nagging groin injury. Without him the Flyers have flourished. Even without him they were already right up against the salary cap limit. With him they would have been forced to shed payroll, and probably a valuable asset they might need down the stretch and into the post season. They also had the 'fortune ' of Darien Hatcher and Mike Rathje, who combined for 7 million in cap space, to go down early with injury. Add to that Danielle's 6.5 mil cap hit and you can see why the Flyers may not have been all that fast to reactivate Briere until almost 3/4 of the season had been completed. Which would explain the repeated return dates being pushed until just after the trade deadline.

4) The other, even more apparent instance was the Brian Pothier "concussion" injury issue. (To review we did an extensive post onthis issue last year> ) To refresh memories on this particuar case: Last January Pothier sustained his 4th concussion after he was checked by Boston's Milan Lucic into the boards head first. Most believed this to be the end of the 30 year old Capitals defenseman. For months afterwards even a brisk walk was difficult without the symptoms returning. He reported to the team in September, but most thought this was a situation of going through the motions. The team was built assuming Brian wouldn't play. They would still pay him his full salary, but it wouldn't cost the team against their cap.

5) We now find out that as early as last December during a visit with an optometrist that he learned that the continuing problems came from his eyes, not his brain. The effects of the concussion, in fact, had long since cleared up, but his eyes continued to have lingering blurry vision. Pothier began vision therapy and started wearing glasses and contact lenses. Instantly, all the pressure and headaches and tension in his head was gone. A couple of days after that, he was skating again. We believe in the non-capped NHL Pothier would have returned by the All-star break after an AHL stint and the appropriate training. Instead the team was coy to the end. Always saying they were hopeful even though Potheir could be seen at team practices participating fully as any other player the past month or more. Not until after the trade deadline and 3/4 of Potheir's salary had already been paid did they report of the 'miracle' and that Brian would have a 2 week stint in Hershey(to clear additional salary space). Now he is set to make his NHL debut tonight in Atlanta.

6) We want to add that we are not saying players are faking injuries. Clearly both players alluded to here were legitimately hurt. However, we are certain these two instances are not unique nor will they likely be the last we will hear of such instances of burying salary under the guise of continuing injury. Its one of the the more difficult things to try to assess. As a physician told us, "You are almost forced to assume the patient is telling you the truth with respect to pain, and you must continue to do so until you can tell with absolute certainty they are lying ". As such, the league can only assume a team is telling the truth with respect to injuries. Team physicians are paid by the teams not the league, so unless the NHL should ask for an independent exam (and we wouldn't hold our breathe unless the incident was so blatant that it caused outrage by rival teams) we should expect these cases of 'milking it' to continue.


Dominick said...

I noticed you mentioned that optometric vision therapy helped after a brain injury. This is not unusual. If you go to and click on the Journal link, you will find a whole issue dealing with those with brain injury and vision. You may also wish to check out ... the Neuro-optometric Rehabilitation Association for more info as well. And finally....I post a great deal of the science behind vision and vision therapy at

Dominick M. Maino, OD, MEd, FAAO, FCOVD-A
Professor of Pediatrics/Binocular Vision
Illinois Eye Institute/Illinois College of Optometry

Northwest Optometric Associates


Dom: Thanks for the pertinent info!

Antzmarching said...

NOT a surprise injuries are being "milked," especially in the case of Pothier... The Capitals are an organization that is particularly NOT forthcoming in disclosing injuries to begin with, but add the complexities of the salary cap, and you will never get a straight answer... McFly, who has been given way too much credit for assembling this squad, MUST be held accountable for the Pothier situation, as well as the Karl Alzner debacle... It can be argued that Alzner was the Caps best defenseman in the games in which he played this season, and he has been relegated to Hershey... Its just frustrating, I guess, because I have to look at Jeff Schultz create chaos every damn night...

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