The Colorado Avalanche are five games into their 2011-2012 campaign, and most things have gone according to plan so far.
The new goaltender tandem of J.S. Giguere and Semyon Varlamov is off to a searing start, owning a combined 1.93 GAA and .938 save percentage.
The team ranks sixth in the goals-per-game category (3.00), and 10th in goals-against-per-game (2.20)—a combo good enough for third place in the entire NHL entering Monday night's contest against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The defense has been noticeably harder to play against, and stars like Matt Duchene and Paul Stastny have started to find their scoring touch early in the season.
The one setback, though, has been the absence of any production from forward Peter Mueller.
Mueller started the season with high expectations, just like the beginning of the 2010 season. But last season was not to be, as Mueller was forced to sit out the entire year after suffering a concussion in the preseason.
Mueller and the team sought out some of the best concussion doctors in the US, including Dr. Robert Cantu, a Boston-based sports related concussion specialist. Dr. Cantu was able to keep Mueller on the road to recovery, and it seemed as though he was ready and primed for a big comeback campaign.
But after five games, of which Mueller has played in only three, the 23-year old forward has exactly zero points, and a paltry five shots on goal.
On Saturday, Adrian Dater of the Denver Post reported that the Avalanche had been in contact with Cantu again last week, leading to speculation that Mueller was experiencing further concussion symptoms. But in a blog post today, Dater reports that Mueller has been cleared to play, although Coach Sacco has elected to sit him tonight against the Maple Leafs.
So what has been the reason for Mueller's absence the past couple of games? Did his concussion symptoms return? And if they did, did they leave just as fast? It's hard to believe that the team wouldn't have contacted Cantu in Boston unless they were worried about Mueller relapsing. But, given his history with concussions, it is also hard to believe that he only experienced returning symptoms for a week or less.
It's possible that Mueller felt the onset of what he thought were concussion symptoms, but they were just symptoms of fatigue. It's possible that after missing an entire season and playing a full preseason, Mueller just wasn't quite ready for the rigors of the regular season.
Perhaps he was feeling some minor concussion symptoms, and they will lessen and lessen as time goes on.
Or perhaps he will have an outbreak of symptoms occasionally through the rest of his career.
Whatever the case, it would be wise for the team to give him whatever time he needs to come back at full strength. If he needs to ease back in by playing two games and sitting out one, they should accommodate that. If he needs an off-day every week, give it to him.
It's not going to help anybody by having him play with concussion symptoms. The team has showed that they can score just fine without him in the lineup, so there should be no rush.
It sounds like Sacco is taking the right precautions by keeping Mueller out of the Leafs game on Monday.
And hopefully the beginning of this season isn't a harbinger of what is to come for Peter Mueller.
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