Karl Alzner’s struggles this season have been well documented and on Tuesday, in an interview with the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan, the Caps defenseman admitted he still hasn’t regained his full stride.
Except Alzner has not felt completely himself all season.
“It’s kind of been standing still at a certain percent,” Alzner said. “There are days when I’m stiffer than other days and I can’t quite move as good, and so I have to manage the game a little differently. … I’ve never been the fastest skater, but I’ve always been a good enough skater where I can a lot of times skate myself out of trouble or catch up, if need be, and this year, I’ve been a little bit slower.
“Part of it, I’m sure, is mental just because you want to guard it a little bit. Of all years, this would be a year where I wouldn’t want that to happen because the team is good and I want to be able to help as much as I can. But at the same time, it’s hard to get over that mental hurdle.”
Alzner has been out since Game Three of the Capitals’ first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs with an unrelated upper-body injury. According to Khurshudyan, Alzner’s recovery from his groin ailment cannot be aided by sitting out.
This is not the first time sports hernia surgery has wreaked havoc on a Capital player’s career. Popular forward Brooks Laich never regained his previous form after getting abdominal surgery and his NHL career could be over after his contract expires this summer. Meanwhile the injury ended Tom Poti’s career.
In late March, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman wrote specifically about these types of procedures and how wary NHL general managers are of their players getting it. Alzner is not the only big time player in the NHL to struggle to return.
Claude Giroux admitted to Philadelphia reporters his surgically repaired hip/abdominal injuries bothered him more than he let on. “When you try to make plays you used to make and can’t really make them, it is frustrating and confusing,” he said.
A few opponents wondered about that, and I had an interesting conversation this week with an exec who said teams are getting more and more wary about the length of recovery from sports-hernia surgery. Both Philly GM Ron Hextall and defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere have downplayed how much of a factor the latter’s own surgery has played in his sophomore struggles, but, again, opponents suspect it’s more of an issue than meets the eye. Potential No. 1 pick Nolan Patrick had this procedure, too. That hasn’t gone unnoticed.
After this season concludes, Alzner will be an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career. Once a slam dunk to be re-signed, Alzner’s uncertain recovery may push him out of Washington.
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