‘For me, it felt like forever’
Hyman returns to lineup just as Marner starts his own rehab stint
There’s really no good news when a player of Mitch Marner’s ability gets sidelined. The Maple Leafs will simply have to make do without their top right winger.
They have already started adapting to life without him: Kasperi Kapanen has slotted in on John Tavares’s wing, Trevor Moore has the ability to play on any line, Nic Petan is back from the Marlies, and Jason Spezza is ready and willing to play any role.
And, of course, Zach Hyman has returned to the lineup.
“It feels good to be back,” Hyman said Wednesday, prior to the Leafs’ game against the New York Islanders. “Just a general excitement. Been watching a lot of hockey obviously. Been around the guys a bunch, practising a ton. I feel ready.”
Hyman had been sidelined since suffering a torn knee ligament in the playoffs.
“It’s a six-month injury,” he said. “It wasn’t crazy long, but for me, it felt like forever.”
Hyman had surgery on a torn anterior cruciate ligament, a procedure that has about a 95-per-cent success rate for high-performance athletes making full recoveries. That’s according to a variety of studies, said Dr. Doug Richards, the medical director of the David L. MacIntosh Sport Medicine Clinic at the University of Toronto and the chief medical officer of the Canadian Sport Institute, Ontario.
Richards has not participated in the care of Hyman or Marner, but as an expert in the field of sports injuries, he says Marner’s chances of recovering to 100 per cent of his abilities are higher than Hyman’s.
“My experience is that it’s significantly better odds (to return from a high-ankle sprain) than an ACL if you take care of it properly,” Richards said. “I don’t have enough fingers and toes to count the athletes I’ve taken care of who have resumed their career at 100 per cent of their previous effectiveness.
“It’s only a career-threatening injury if you don’t take care of it.”
Jack Eichel of the Buffalo Sabres and Erik Karlsson of the San Jose Sharks are two big names that have returned from high-ankle sprains the past few seasons. Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues is dealing with one now.
Most ankle sprains are caused by the rolling of the foot. Not a high ankle sprain. That’s an injury to the ligaments that hold the leg bones — the tibia and the fibula — together. Those ligaments are not attached to the foot.
Marner suffered his injury on Saturday, tripping in the second period. His right foot is in a protective boot, probably until at least Friday, Marner said this week.
“Good treatment of a high-ankle sprain is to immobilize it for a period of time to allow adequate healing before you start letting the athlete load it again,” Richards said. “The longer they are immobilized, the steeper the hill is to climb out of it. I’m sure a gifted athlete will do the rehab.”
When the boot comes off, rehabilitation will begin. Marner will be re-evaluated in about four weeks.
“Standard rehab involves restoration of range of motion, restoration of strength, restoration of speed and functional movement patterns,” said Richards, who has worked for the Raptors and Olympic teams. “So all the functional movement patterns he needs to do to skate forward, backward, cross over, land right, stop suddenly, start suddenly, whatever you do … they’ll take him through it all.
“The rehab process for a top athlete is typically faster than the rest of the rest of the population … If you or I had a highankle sprain and then went to the physio three times a week, that’s not the same as a pro athlete who’s going to be in the trainer’s room three times a day, working on it full speed ahead.”
Leafs captain John Tavares lost linemate Mitch Marner, left, to injury, but got winger Zach Hyman, right, back for Wednesday’s game.