The Colorado Avalanche have an interesting situation on their hands regarding the health and future of captain Gabriel Landeskog.
Landeskog hasn’t played since Jan. 26 against the San Jose Sharks when he took a blow to the head on a hit courtesy of forward Brad Stuart. Landeskog’s status hasn’t been as clear as it could be because of Colorado’s policy of talking to players with injuries during media time, but the Avs did place him on the injured reserve list Feb. 1.
Landeskog only tallied one goal in four games for Colorado before being forced to sit since then.
The absence of Landeskog is apparent since Steve Downie is already out for the season with a torn ACL and Colorado hasn’t been able to re-sign restricted free agent Ryan O’Reilly. But players such as Matt Duchene, P.A. Parenteau and John Mitchell have all stepped up this season.
The hit that Landeskog took from Stuart—which can be seen below—could put Colorado in a tough spot.
That tough spot was brought up by Adrian Dater of The Denver Post when he asked what Colorado should do about Landeskog:
Good question: should the Avs just shut down Landy for year and not risk it or play him if he says he's ready?— adater (@adater) February 8, 2013
So if the Avs have the choice of shutting Landeskog down for the rest of the season or letting him play when he’s healthy, what should they do?
Why Colorado Should Shut Landeskog Down
Heading into Monday’s matchup against the Phoenix Coyotes, the Avs sit in 28th place in the NHL with eight points in the first 10 games of the season. Colorado hasn’t played as well as many expected, but that’s primarily because of injuries and the inability to get O’Reilly back.
There still may be 38 games left for the Avs to play, but I don’t see them as playoff contenders as of now. That being said, there shouldn’t be a big rush to get Landeskog back on the ice.
The last thing Colorado needs is to have him come back earlier than he really should and end up like Sidney Crosby, who is basically the poster child for concussions in the NHL. No one knows how long it’s going to take Landeskog to bounce back and be healthy enough to play again.
Landeskog wasn’t cleared to practice on Saturday, but might be able to take the ice on Sunday, according to Mike Chambers of The Denver Post. Let’s use “might” loosely, though. The length of time necessary to recover from a concussion varies, but to be safe, two weeks may be a little premature.
Even with Landeskog in the lineup, the Avs probably aren’t going to make much noise. There’s no sense in risking his future for a shortened season that will end with a missed postseason.
Why Colorado Should Let Landeskog Play
If Landeskog is healthy, he should be on the ice as much as possible, right?
A lot has to happen for Landeskog to play. It’s not as simple as him saying, “OK, I’m ready.” No, it’s much more complicated. He would have to pass a couple of concussion tests and be cleared by team doctors. And even if he were to get cleared, Colorado would still have the option of sitting him.
But if all goes well, Landeskog should be cleared relatively soon. That’s an assumption based off of Chambers’ tweet saying that there is a chance he practices on Sunday. If he gets cleared to practice, there’s probably a chance he plays within the week, potentially against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday or the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
The Avs could certainly use Landeskog on the squad’s top lines. Playing Landeskog would give them a big scoring threat that could make the difference between winning and losing. And this season, Colorado has done too much losing.
Colorado may sit in the cellar of the Western Conference, but the Avs are just four points off of eighth-place St. Louis. A couple of quick wins and Colorado is more than back in the playoff hunt. But that may still be a bit of a stretch.
If Landeskog is healthy and the Avs feel that they can make a run at a postseason berth, don’t be shocked to see him playing.