The Toronto Maple Leafs declined to provide a detailed update, but it’s clear that centre Dave Bolland’s ankle injury is likely to keep him out until deep into their season.
And perhaps even for almost all of it.
According to the team, Bolland suffered “a severed tendon on the outside of his left ankle” when Vancouver Canucks winger Zack Kassian’s skate clipped his foot on a check in the second period of Saturday’s game.
The Leafs lost the game 4-0 but the bigger hole is obviously now down the middle minus both Bolland and Tyler Bozak, who is out for at least another couple weeks with a hamstring tear or strain.
Both are on injured reserve, which has been a busy spot for Toronto so far this season.
Leafs coach Randy Carlyle declined to put any kind of time frame on Bolland’s recovery on Monday, saying specifics were hard to come by.
Bolland was wheeled out of Rogers Arena on a stretcher after the game, had surgery at a Vancouver hospital that night and didn’t travel back to Toronto with the team on Sunday.
“It’s too early to say,” Carlyle said of how long he will be out. “They don’t really give you that. They’ll say that it’s five months and then we hope it’s two. We don’t really know until the healing process starts and they’ll do an assessment. Then we’ll get more tightened in on the time frame for you.”
Given where Kassian’s skate cut him, Bolland’s injury most likely affected the peroneal tendons in his foot (peroneus brevis or peroneus longus), which help with pointing the foot and stabilizing the ankle.
According to Jo Innes, an ER doctor who writes a regular sports medicine blog for The Score, a non-athlete would expect a recovery time frame of three to four months from such an injury, depending on the severity of the cut and what was affected beyond the tendon.
While Bolland will obviously get top notch medical care and as a young athlete could be expected to recover quicker than that, the Leafs will almost definitely have to do without him until at least the early part of 2014.
Ankle injuries can be difficult for hockey players for obvious reasons, and if a four month recovery is the worst case scenario, that would mean he misses nearly 50 games.
The fact he required immediate surgery on Saturday was a bad sign.
“He’s out for the long haul,” Innes said on Twitter.
At practice on Monday, Carlyle’s solution at centre was to shift winger James van Riemsdyk to the middle between Joffrey Lupul and Phil Kessel.
Van Riemsdyk played centre during his college days and Carlyle had contemplated a similar move prior to last season but he has yet to log time down the middle in more than 300 regular season and playoff games in the NHL.
"He’s played there before so it doesn’t take rocket science to go in that direction,” Carlyle said.
The Leafs also don’t have many other options at the moment. With Trevor Smith already with the big club, the Toronto Marlies are having issues at centre of their own, and only 34-year-old grinder Jerred Smithson has much NHL experience.
The other alternative would be to sign a player like veteran free agent Vinny Prospal, although the Leafs cap situation is incredibly tight and made more difficult by all of the injuries up front.
Placing Bolland on long-term injured reserve will temporarily open some room for GM Dave Nonis to fill out the lineup, but the Leafs would then have to get back under the cap when he’s ready to return.
Leafs lines in practice:
Lupul – JVR – Kessel
Raymond – Kadri – Clarkson
Bodie – McClement – Kulemin
McLaren – Smith – Orr
Gunnarsson – Phaneuf
Rielly – Franson
Ranger – Gardiner
Reimer / Bernier
Extras: Ashton, Liles, Fraser (IR)