Provided he does play today, Mike Cammalleri has missed six games. He was elbowed in the jaw by Jamie Benn. While he did play the next night in Ottawa, he has been held out since then. Out with what? Well, it's not clear and that's a problem.
Since he's been out, there hasn't been any word from Lou, Peter DeBoer, or anyone else from the team other than that he would be held out until he's 100%. On Sunday, Cammalleri returned to practice. Tom Gulitti talked with Cammalleri about the nature of his injury. First came this Tweet from Gulitti:
Mike Cammalleri instructed by team not to say if he had a concussion. Doesn't know if he's playing Monday— Tom Gulitti (@TGfireandice) November 9, 2014
That's a very sketchy response, to say the least. Here's the post from Gulitti about Cammalleri's non-disclosure at Fire & Ice with a direct quotes. These are more nuanced.
"I don’t think I’m going to comment on the specifics of the injury," he said. "I just wasn’t fit to play and I’m just tying to do my best to get back as quick as I can. I got a skate today and we’ll see how things go here."
When I asked why the secrecy about his injury, Cammallier said he, "was told we don’t give the specifics. That was basically it."
Between the two sources, it certainly doesn't look good. It also raises larger questions. The Devils, not unlike other sports teams, do not reveal details of injuries where they don't have to do so. Martin Havlat, for example, has been out with a "lower body injury." As with Cammalleri, Havlat revealed no details and the team certainly did not either in Gulitti's post. Was it a leg injury? What is a foot injury? Did have to do with a muscle like a groin or a calf strain? Who knows? I want to ask the question: what is the actual benefit of doing so?
I can think of a few. One could argue it's for safety purposes. No one wants to say they're returning from a particular injury and then have that body part targeted. One could argue it's for secrecy. I don't think any player wants a reputation of being injury prone. One could argue it's out of not fully knowing what the injury is. Admittedly, that's a stretch. One could be incredibly technical and state there's no requirement to release such information so why release it.
Upon further reflection, I'm not satisfied with any of those reasons. I reject the safety argument. The harsh reality is that hockey is a physical game and that means injuries can and will happen. Whether it's from by accident, blocking a shot, skating around, or even an intentional play, there's little a player can truly do to avoid it. Especially re-injury. Cammalleri took a shot to the jaw in a game. Whether Benn intended to or not won't prevent someone else from doing something similar. Or losing control and skating right into the boards. Or a stray stick coming up high. Or just a bad collision like the one that cut up Havlat's face a few weeks back in Washington. The point is that revealing an injury isn't going to guarantee that a player will be targeted.
Furthermore, I really reject any notion of secrecy. All of these games are on TV. All of these games are attended by thousands. And everyone is talking to each other. Even the players. So if other guys in the league note whether they are banged up and how, then there goes any notion of protection. As for the fans, an injury impacts how I view the team. It not only means I won't see the player, but it affects how the team performs. The Devils have dropped three in a row and have played some ugly hockey in recent weeks due in part by not having Cammalleri and Havlat on the ice. If there's no clarity as to what the injury is, then how are the fans to know when to expect a return? I couldn't tell you.
If anything, keeping details quiet only fuels unnecessary speculation. In these modern times, we can see what happened in a game that might lead to an injury. We can open up NHL Gamecenter Live or find some video or rewind our DVRs or hope someone had a .GIF or a picture and see the incident. We can come to our own conclusions, given the nature of what happened and the player's own history. And the we isn't just fans, but also reporters, analysts, observers, and maybe some within the league. Just look at Ryane Clowe. The moment he was ruled out, the 'C' word came up and I can't say I blame them given his serious history of concussions. I understand that the truth isn't immediate. I know that we aren't privy to every single medical test. But we do want to know why a player isn't able to play and the media should and does ask such questions. (The latter eliminates that third possibility I came up with earlier.) Why not give out the truth instead of being as vague as possible if only to reduce the distraction of speculation? I couldn't tell you.
Let's go back to Cammalleri. What have we learned again? He was out for six (seven if he doesn't play tonight) games and he just returned to practice. Technically, we can't say he's had a concussion. But this non-answer has breeded more speculation that, yes, he did suffer a concussion. Gulitti correctly notes that if he had a concussion, then he was out for a similar length of time from his previous concussion. That happened less than a year ago. That would certainly raise concerns about his longevity. While that's not as bad as Clowe, it raises the question of why he was signed to such a long term deal. Will we have to worry about this for the future? Possibly. But, again, we can't say whether he did sustain a concussion. He didn't say so, the team didn't, and Gulitti only just asked the question. Just that he won't discuss the specifics, and the team most likely won't either. We can only speculate. Not only for this instance but the next time he's not in practice, not playing in a game, or even misses a shift. How is this a good thing? I couldn't tell you.
Maybe you know of a better reason. Why aren't the Devils - and other teams - forthcoming as to the specifics of an injury like the ones Cammalleri and Havlat are coming back from? Please leave your thoughts and answers in the comments. Thank you for reading.