Assessing the mood on Twitter and Facebook, Karlsson’s gruesome, traumatic injury last night has struck a chord. It’s not just what it means for the Senators season, though we all know that with Karlsson, Spezza, and Cowen out for the season, and a combination of Michalek, Regin, Latendresse, and Gonchar already missing time, it’s enough to start reading pages like this one with greater interest. It’s more than a lost season. There’s a sort of sick feeling in the pit of the stomach because of this one, something worse than no playoffs.
I’ve been trying to put my finger on it. I didn’t feel this way when Spezza had back surgery. Alfie, the team’s most cherished and respected player, has missed time due to surgery before, and I’m not sure if I felt this way when it happened.
There’s something about seeing Karlsson’s face in AP photographer Gene J. Puskar’s various close-up photos; the way his face contorts in agony when he tries to put weight on his foot again; even in the way he throws his stick in frustration as he’s being helped off the ice. This was a sick injury (I’m reminded of a scene at the end of the Korean movie Old Boy, a scene designed to convey ultimate revenge, vulnerability, and horror.) It was like watching a car wreck: pointless, tragic, devastating. You can’t help but separate yourself from the fact that this is a game and feel real empathy for the guy.
Once the horror wears off a little bit, the sick stomach doesn’t end. There’s also the feeling that we’re losing a season of a dominant, transcendent athlete in his absolute prime, a player who is an absolute joy to watch. And there’s the fear that this injury, which may require up to a year of rehab and recovery, will somehow affect this player for the rest of his career. Karlsson was enjoying not just a good season; in many ways he even improved on his Norris-winning performance last year. He’s leading the entire league in shots, and has almost double the number of shots as the next defenceman, Jack Johnson, who is 46th. He may still win the Finnish league’s scoring title for defenceman, despite the fact that he left Jokerit a month ago, giving his competition plenty of time to catch up. He’s been playing with an undeniable confidence, propelling a surprising team to playoff contention, and almost single-handedly breaking the game wide open on almost a nightly basis.
This was a tough season already, but there’s something about this injury that is much, much worse than perhaps missing out on the playoffs (in a shortened season, and with a deep draft to console ourselves). There’s a fear that we won’t get the old Karlsson back. The sky was the limit this time yesterday. Now, I feel robbed of something special. That it happened on a nothing play, as just the arbitrary, chaotic nature of a fast, physical game played on razor sharp blades, makes it all seem so pointless and unfair.
In any case, we here at WTYKY, who derive our very name from a love for our Special Little Guy, are thinking about him today and wishing him a speedy recovery. Not just so he can get back here and help this team win a Cup, but because we feel for him and wish him well.