There are a lot of reasons some folks can't be professional hockey players. Some of us are awful at hockey. Some of us are hobbits. Some of us don't even know what skates look like. And some of us have bodies made from delicate porcelain, gentle china bodies that are too fragile to sustain the rigours of getting your face pounded into the boards by Michal Handzus every night. Perhaps we didn't eat enough protein growing up. Perhaps undergoing that surgery to have all of our ligaments replaced with pieces of delicious taffy was a bad idea. Either way, we are simply too injury prone to make it in the NHL, regardless of our skill level.
Hello, Marc Pouliot!
There are those who have been saying that Ryan Potulny's surprisingly-not-awful play has put Pouliot on the bubble; that when he returns from injury there may not be a place in the lineup for him. They are mistaken. What's put Marc Pouliot on the bubble is the fact that he is a newly-blooming flower in the first days of spring who is trying to run with the bulls in Pamplona. Even once Pouliot was back practicing he got hurt, ending practice early on Tuesday possibly because his leg had fallen off.
We haven't seen Pouliot at all this season, except for a brief trial in the preseason where he stuck his head out of the ground like Wiarton Willie, saw his shadow, and that meant six more weeks on injured reserve. Shades of the 2006 playoffs, where after a promising regular season Pouliot contracted mono and missed the entire Stanley Cup run. Or last season, where after a promising start to the year Pouliot suffered a concussion, possibly from banging his head against the wall in frustration, and missed more time. Which wasn't his first concussion, as a few years earlier at the CHL Top Prospects game a giant idiot named Dion Phaneuf had leapt, shoulder high, into Pouliot's head and popped him a good one. He's had hip problems. He's had surgery to repair problems with his abdominal muscles while still in junior. He's broken his wrist.
He has, remarkably, not yet had any serious lower body injuries in his career. Which is good news, as it means that when we finally send him to the glue factory we can give his legs to some guy with bad knees and get a complete hockey player back.
There's a lot to like about Marc Pouliot as a hockey player. He has remarkable defensive awareness for a centre his age. But even considering that role, he has soft hands and a natural playmaker's touch on the puck. He's a strong skater and good in the faceoff circle. He's disciplined. He's a positive influence in the dressing room. He's still only twenty-four and is a young twenty-four since the poor bastard's only played in 141 NHL games over four seasons (not counting this one).
I don't buy for a second that a guy like Potulny can get ahead of Pouliot on the depth chart if both fo them can play eighty-two games per season. Marc Pouliot does so many thing on the ice that Ryan Potulny can't manage. Let's not confuse being a surprisingly serviceable injury plug-in like Potulny with being a proper, proven NHLer like Pouliot. The glare of novelty can sometines overwhelm our reason.
But injuries have killed better careers than Pouliot's. The list of guys who got hurt too often to make it is an awfully long one. Even Fernando Pisani, suffering from a serious and sometimes fatal chronic intestinal disease, has played this season and is currently back in practice. The list of guys passing Pouliot is one way or another is getting longer and longer, and with yet another serious injury taking longer than anticipated to heal, he might have to think about life after hockey sooner than he'd hoped.