Blues’ McDonald Returns to St. Louis with Possible Concussion

By Jeff Quirin
NHL Hot Stove Asscoiate Editor

History sure does have a nasty way of repeating it self in St. Louis. Especially with injuries.

As announced on the Blues official website, forward Andy McDonald has left the team and will return to St. Louis for additional testing after suffering a head injury during Thursday’s 3-2 loss to the Stars.

The incident occurred when it appears Dallas forward Vernon Fillder collided with McDonald at the end of the second period in what appeared to be a rather meaningless event. A “late” shot by McDonald as the horn sounded drew the ire of his opponents and in the ensuing scrum he was struck in the head. There are some claims that David Backes’ stick is also to blame in an inadvertent manner.

McDonald did return, after being cleared by Dallas doctors, for the third period. He was arguably the most effective player on the ice and easily the top Blues skater. Playing a part in several key opportunities to knot the score.

According to media reports on McDonald did not feel well today.

A concussion has not yet been confirmed. Considering McDonald’s history the likelihood is high. After the first, each subsequent concussion is easier to get. As such concern is warranted and appropriate measures will be taken.

On December 4th, 2010 on bad overtime ice, McDonald hit a rut in Edmonton. Causing him to lose his balance, fall and put his head directly in to Oiler’s captain Shawn Horcoff’s leg. The resulting concussion kept him out of the lineup for 24 games. In that stretch the Blues posted a weak 10-11-3 record. Setting them behind the playoff pace which they could never catch up to. Concussion issues also forced him to miss the Anaheim Ducks playoff run in 2003.

Another Blues player, forward David Perron, hasn’t played since an illegal blindside hit from San Jose Sharks captain Joe Thornton concussed him on November 4th, 2010. He too left the game he was injured in and returned. Perron’s games missed total sits at 75 (72 in 10-11, three so far in 11-12) and counting.

Defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo suffered a concussion due to a big hit by Nashville’s Jordin Tootoo on October, 28th 2010. Taking him out of the lineup for over two weeks before returning on November 15th. Colaiacovo is currently out of action with another concussion because of a dangerous play on an icing race by another Predator, Blake Geoffrion. The two were tangled and Colaiacovo’s head struck the boards.

A well documented history of concussion issues forced former Blues winger and McDonald linemate Paul Kariya to retire last season.

Looking at track record like that plus the new protocols put in place by the NHL, it’s easy to understand the Blues handling of the issue.

McDonald will be seen by Dr. Rick Wright per the team.
There are several options to fill the void to Backes’ left on the top line.

Alex Steen could slide up from third line and has a complementary history with the captain. This move would probably mean Chris Porter would dress in a bottom six role along side Jason Arnott or allow Vladimir Sobotka to take Steen’s place and Porter take Sobotka’s with Scott Nichol and Ryan Reaves on the energy line.

The most likely scenario is that Evgeny Grachev will step in as a one for one replacement. Head coach Davis Payne does prefer to roll three quality lines versus two scoring and two groups plumbers. Grachev and Backes tied for the tam lead in scoring during the preseason. The two developed a good bit of chemistry along with Jamie Langenbrunner who has remained to Backes’ right. Grachev cannot replace the speed dynamic McDonald brings, but can add soft hands and a big body around the net who can also make a play.

A Sobotka-Backes-D’Agostini reunion could be in order as well. The trio worked well together last season and could rekindle the spark that made them the Blues top line while McDonald was out. D’Agostini did replace Langenbrunner on the Backes line in the third period Thursday night when searching for the equalizing goal.

One thing is for certain, the quality of the off season acquisitions made by General Manager Doug Armstrong will be tested. Veteran additions like Arnott, Langenbrunnner, Nichol and Kent Huskins were sought for just this situation. Adversity last season caused the generally young lineup to go in to a shell. The experience factor to keep an even keel cannot be overlooked. Failure to execute and recover from the negative aspects of the game will sink the Blues playoff chances in 2012 just like they were in 2011.