When Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green first suffered a head injury against the Columbus Blue Jackets he was expected to sit out a day of practice before returning to the lineup with Detroit Red Wings. Of course he ended up sitting out that game with what was first described as a head injury and has since sat out two more games with what we now know is a concussion.
To say that this diagnosis is scary for Green is an understatement, and it could truly put the Capitals’ already questionable playoff hopes in jeopardy as well. Over the past three seasons Green has had immense issues with shoulder injuries and multiple concussions, meaning that any new head issue is nothing to scoff at. These problems have limited Green to 116 out of 212 possible games from 2010 to the beginning of the current season and have shot the offensive presence that once made him a Norris Trophy threat.
During the 2013-14 season it appeared that Green was again lacking in the confidence that went away with these injuries, and one had to wonder if he would ever be the same player. There was a two-game burst right before the current concussion occurred that indicated this might be changing, but once again the Capitals and Green are at square one of fighting to return from an injury that really can change on a day-to-day basis. As the defenseman has shown on previous fights back into the lineup, concussions cannot be trusted to heal on a reasonable timetable, and this could be an injury that lingers on for the rest of the season.
Having Green sit out the rest of the way is a dangerous proposition for the Capitals as they currently sit in the perilous position of 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points behind the Philadelphia Flyers for the eighth spot in the conference. In order to make a substantial burst for the playoffs after the Olympic break, Washington will need Green as their defense is full of holes and lacking in depth.
For the entirety of the 2013-14 season, the Capitals’ defense has been a bit porous as they rank 21st in goals allowed per game and 18th in penalty kill percentage in the NHL. The team has not truly been able to find any depth defenseman who can be trusted late in games, and without Green they would have to rely on John Carlson, Karl Alzner and Dmitry Orlov to play 30 minutes a game.
Obviously playing minutes of this magnitude is not feasible for these three which makes the return of Green right when the Olympic break concludes the only option to having a stable defense the rest of the way. If this does not happen the Capitals can give up any hope of first making the NHL playoffs and making a run towards the Stanley Cup.