But, in our hearts, we had to know this was coming.
Staal wasn't skating in many practices back in North America in the days and weeks leading up to the trip to Europe. He was seeing specialists almost every day, and was being sent home due to headaches. The Rangers were optimistic, hoping he could make it to Europe for the season opener, but they were also being very patient. Concussions are a serious problem, and they didn't (and don't) want to rush him.
Essentially, there are two ways you can look at Staal not coming to Europe. And I go through both of them after the jump.
The Optimistic Theory:
Why would the Rangers force Staal to travel all the way to Europe for two regular season games against the Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks? He's been skating with the Connecticut Whale, and while he has shown some improvement, there's probably a school of thought that making him travel a significant distance in just a few days time couldn't be good.
Another aspect to file into this theory is his game-day shape. Remember, Staal hasn't been skating like the rest of the team and hasn't played in any preseason games. There's a good chance he's simply using this time with the Whale to get back to where he needs to be in order to play when the Rangers return from their trip.
Another sign the injury isn't season-threatening? Tim Erixon. Erixon was sent down during the Rangers last round of cuts, and although he wasn't ready for the daily grind of an NHL season just yet, John Tortorella would not have sent him down if they thought Staal was going to miss an extended period of time. Also remember that Mike Sauer is still day-to-day, so it's not like the Rangers have a plethora of defenseman waiting for roster spots.
The end analysis here, is that the Rangers are simply continuing their cautious approach with Staal, and we can expect him to play a few games into the regular season.
The Pessimistic Theory:
There was a level of concern when Staal wasn't skating at the beginning of training camp. And while we all had no problems with the cautious approach the Rangers had taken with the stalwart defenseman, there was an expectation from the coaching staff that he would be playing in the season opener against the Kings. That obviously won't happen.
Concussion injuries are some of the hardest injuries to gauge, and if Staal is getting symptoms now then it might be a lingering problem for much longer then had been originally anticipated. While no one is taking fault with the way the Rangers are handling the situation; the cautious approach can also be viewed as the only approach.
Even though Staal passed a base-line neurology test in order to return to practice and eventually play in games last year, these symptoms could take time to develop. And maybe they have.
The Rangers did send down Erixon, aren't going to depend on Brendan Bell or Stu Bickel for long-term roles and still have Sauer listed as day-to-day; so even the pessimists can't assume his season is over. But he might miss a good chunk more than originally thought.
OK guys, this is one of those discussion posts. Have at it!