Dealing with concussions are always tricky, and the New York Rangers can’t afford to rush Mika Zibanejad back from his.
The Rangers and the term concussion have a history and it’s not necessarily a good one. Marc Staal was rushed back from a concussion during the 2011-2012 season and surprised everyone by playing in the 2012 Winter Classic. The problem is that Staal wasn’t the same player after returning from that injury. When they acquired Rick Nash, he too was coming off a concussion and wasn’t able to produce at the level he had come to expect.
As important as a player Zibanejad is, the Rangers need to look back at their history and realize that injuries like this take time to heal. This is especially imperative considering the fact that Zibanejad signed a long-term extension in the offseason.
Zibanejad has taken major strides this year and has emerged as the team‘s number one center. With him out of the lineup, the Rangers offense is not as dynamic as it is with him in it. In his absence, the power play has dipped drastically, dropping to ninth in the NHL. In his absence, the team has just scored two goals with the man advantage while scoring 18 with him. 11 of his 22 points have come on the power-play.
One of the reasons that the Rangers can afford to take their time with Zibanejad is the fact that Kevin Hayes has emerged as a legitimate top-six center. Hayes has done a fantastic job with his defense this season and has the ability to contribute offensively.
J.T. Miller‘s play also allows the Rangers to take their time with Zibanejad. There have been questions throughout Miller’s career is whether or not he can handle playing at the center position. In Zibanejad’s absence, Miller has shown that he is, in fact, capable of succeeding there. He alongside Michael Grabner and Mats Zuccarello have been dynamic together and allows the Rangers to wait.
With Zibanejad out of the lineup, other players have had to step up and so far they have. David Desharnais might have saved his future with the Rangers playing some of the best hockey he has played since coming to the Blueshirts. Boo Nieves just scored his first career goal and playing well overall.
As long as the Rangers continue to play well and win, they won’t need to force Zibanejad back into the lineup. They are 7-3-0 in their last 10 games including 3-1-0 in the games that Zibanejad has missed.
Concussions are tricky and so far the Rangers have been following the process with Zibanejad. There have been some hiccups along the way like him skating in warmups prior to being ruled out. That must be the only hiccup because if there is another on it won’t only effect this season, but it has the potential to affect the next four seasons.
The first step for Zibanejad is to ride the stationary bicycle, which he has, as the road to recovery begins. The Rangers will be more than happy to welcome him back, but only when the time is right.