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The Severe Implications of a Concussion for Clarke MacArthur

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After a devastating hit yesterday, Clarke MacArthur’s season and career may be in jeopardy

Montreal Canadiens v Ottawa Senators - Game Three Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images

Brutal. Just brutal. The Senators have not even played a pre-season game yet, and they have two players out with a concussion. For Mark Stone, it doesn’t seem that concerning, especially because GM Pierre Dorion believes that he might be able to make the opening game lineup.

But for Clarke MacArthur, who has suffered his third concussion in the last year and a half, it is much more serious. It’s pretty incredible/unfortunate that all three of those concussions have been caused by his own teammates.

The first one involved a collision with Robin Lehner near the end of the 2014-15 season. Then last year Mark Fraser essentially put him out for the entire season. And this time around, it was newly-acquired Patrick Sieloff who has put MacArthur’s career in jeopardy.

I’m sure most Senators fans have seen it, but for those who haven’t, here it is:

This was not in a regular season game. This was not even a pre-season game. This was a scrimmage. The fact that Sieloff made a hit like that on his own teammate who’s coming off a gruesome concussion is absolutely unacceptable. I don’t blame Bobby Ryan, Chris Neil, and Derick Brassard at all for sticking up for Clarke, because that sort of hit was completely unnecessary. I’m sure Sieloff regrets the hit now obviously, but the damage is done. The implications are severe for MacArthur, and the team as well.

For Clarke, everyone can see that his situation is extremely fragile right now. I tried to find if he had any concussions prior to 2015, but I could not find anything. But even if his collision with Lehner caused his first, he’s still had three concussions, which is usually the limit that an athlete can take.

Most of us analyzing concussions in sports are not doctors, and neither am I. But there’s a chance that his career might be over, or even if it isn’t, his next concussion could end it.

You know it’s serious when Dorion gives a quote like this:

By using a term like “heartbroken,” the Senators know the severity of this. They know that his health may not get any better. I know fans do not want to hear this, but for his happiness, the best thing for him might be to retire.

Of course he should give it time to see if there’s even a chance that he can come back, but he should not step back on the ice unless he is 100%. It took him months to even feel normal again last year, and we know that with concussions, it gets worse every single time.

There’s no way that MacArthur wants to end his career at age 31, and he’s going to do everything he can to get back on the ice. But at the end of the day, if he can’t get back to full health, then he needs to think about his future and if he wants to risk his happiness.

Nobody knows for sure what will happen with him this season, but considering all the panic and heartbreak yesterday amongst Senators fans and media, it seems like we’re all prepared for the worst. And while our first focus should be on the player himself, we also have to think about the implications this injury will have on the Senators.

To put it gently, it is a serious blow. So much of the optimism heading into this season hinged on the fact that MacArthur and Kyle Turris would be healthy, and now one of them (plus Stone) is already down. Ottawa was already very reliant on being healthy this season because their depth is not great. If Ottawa is going to have a successful season, they need their main guys to stay healthy.

We saw what kind of impact MacArthur had on the team, as having him in the lineup puts everyone in their right place. You can pair him with Bobby Ryan in order to give Ryan a legitimate possession driver. He gives the Senators six legitimate top-six forwards, and enables the team to put Mike Hoffman with Turris and Stone.

Furthermore, he puts Zack Smith on the third line, so the team doesn’t have to worry so much about a possible regression. Essentially, MacArthur was a pillar amongst the forwards that the team needed. Without him, this is a possible configuration:

Hoffman-Turris-Stone

Smith-Brassard-Ryan

Dzingel-Pageau-Lazar

Pyatt-Kelly-Neil

Puempel

That isn’t terrible, but I am a hell of a lot more comfortable with that added top-six forward.

MacArthur does everything you can ask of him, and it really hurts losing a guy that is second on the team in shot differentials since he joined Ottawa. He isn’t known as a massive point producer, but he can easily chip in 50 points, and he’s tied with Bobby Ryan in 5v5 points per 60 at 1.92 since they both joined the team. Having that guy who can be put on any one of the top three lines and score no matter who he’s with is incredibly valuable, as he was able to make lines look a lot more credible.

Now though, Ottawa’s depth is going to be put to the test.

None of us can rule out a return for him this season, because it’s way too early to tell. But I think it’s fair to assume the worst, even if we want to deny it as much as possible. In the end, all I want is for Clarke to be happy and healthy. If he gets back to playing as well as he can in Ottawa, then that’s perfect. But if he’s incapable of playing again or he doesn’t want to risk life-long head injuries, then I can understand that as well.

This meaningless scrimmage might have changed the Senators fortunes for this season, and hopefully it does not de-rail MacArthur’s career. I don’t want this to be all doom and gloom before the season even starts, but it’s just incredibly sad to see him work so hard to get healthy just to get re-injured right away.

The Senators playoff chances have taken a vicious hit, and unfortunately so did MacArthur. Let’s hope he recovers to 100% health, because the Senators need him. If he does not, then I pray he does not try to play through it and risk his future. Just a sad day for Senators fans on Sunday.