On December 5th, 2011 Michael Sauer suffered a concussion when Maple Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf rocked him with a huge body check and caught Sauer with his head down.
Mike Sauer has not been able to play a single game of professional hockey since that hit.
Unfortunately as fans of the game of hockey we often forget the great risks involved in stepping out onto the ice, especially at the professional level. We are quick to grow restless with struggling players and are impatient and even become upset with players who suffer injuries or are injury-prone. Then situations like Mike Sauer and Marc Savard's concussion-related career-threatening injuries happen and we are reminded what is really important.
The most powerful sentence that I have heard regarding Sauer's prolonged absence from headlines and the Rangers' locker room is that "no news is bad news". I wish I could disagree with that statement and tell you that there are reports coming out that are encouraging but it is very rare for players to make comebacks like the one Peter Mueller has had this year for the Florida Panthers after being sidelined for as long as he was with concussion-related issues.
What We Do Know
First and foremost I am not a concussion expert or specialist. I know as much about concussions as I do about why Kim Kardashian is on television more often than Elmo.
- Sauer, 25, is still relatively young and shouldn't (and by all indications hasn't) rush a return to the ice.
- The Rangers' blueline is better with Sauer than it will ever be with Eminger, Hamrlik, Bickel, or Gilroy in the lineup. When he was healthy he was an outstanding and stalwart second-pair defenseman.
- As of this season's training camp Sauer had made the trip to the Rangers' training facility only a handful of times (for examinations) according to Jeff Klein of the New York Times and he hasn't been on the ice since the Phaneuf hit.
What We Don't Know
- Mike Sauer's agent, Ben Hankinson, said the following of his client and his status in January:
"I wish I could give you some kind of timetable on when or if he can come back, but I can't... Unfortunately it's still day to day, week to week, month to month."
- It is expected that Sauer will miss the rest of this season and his status for next year is uncertain.
- There hasn't been any encouraging or what I would call "significant" updates about Mike Sauer or his health in quite some time. A little bit of digging around on Google and twitter will bring you back to the updates made about Sauer during training camp and a few blog articles.
- We don't know if Sauer has suffered a concussion before or how many he might have had playing before juniors. We do know that he has had bad luck with injuries (shoulder, hip, knee) in the WHL and AHL but none of those injuries were concussions. Injury histories are a lot harder to track down than they used to be. To be clear I am not suggesting that Mike Sauer has had a concussion before- I am just commenting that we can't really be sure about a player's injury history in the modern game anymore.
Something else that we do know is that we are all pulling for Sauer to make a swift and complete recovery and for this injury to make as small an impact on Sauer's life off the ice as possible. So long as teams play injuries and news about injuries close to the chest we probably won't hear anything significant until the offseason or next year's training camp regarding Mike Sauer's health or progress. I hope that we all get treated to some excellent news and hear something positive soon but I just don't see that happening at this point.
As painful as it is to say I think the team should start preparing as if Sauer won't be in the plans for the future of this team. There are several interesting guys coming up through the pipeline that will help bolster the Rangers' blueline in the near future including McIlrath and last year's first round pick, Brady Skjei. By no means am I "giving up" on Mike Sauer or his career but the shrewd business decision at this point for the Rangers is to move forward hoping for the best but planning for the worst.
I wrote this article because I wanted to address the countless comments I have seen on Blueshirt Banter about the status of Mike Sauer and when and if he is going to come back. I wish I had some positive news for you guys or to be honest... any real news at all. For now we have to keep operating under the mantra of "wait and see" with Mike Sauer and keep hoping for him to recover quickly and completely. We all know how big of a loss Sauer is to the lineup and how much better the team is with him on the second pair.
Let's go Rangers.