Depression adds to Savard’s burden
A somber Marc Savard, his eyes welling up a couple of times, stood in the TD Garden dressing room yesterday morning and made it clear he won’t be able to play hockey for a while.
“I am definitely going to take my time,’’ said the Bruins’ No. 1 center, “and make sure that I am 100 percent in every aspect before I even think about playing.’’
What ails Savard, in the broad and often-ambiguous definition, is postconcussion syndrome, the lingering effects of the Grade 2 concussion he sustained last March when he was viciously blindsided with a crack to the head by Pittsburgh’s Matt Cooke. In the center of that syndrome, Savard made clear yesterday, with his words and demeanor, is depression. Of all the usual symptoms related to concussions, that’s his biggest hurdle right now — one that can be difficult to overcome.
When I asked him during the informal media scrum if he were dealing with nausea, headaches, dizziness, seeing spots, and depression — many of the common issues related to concussions and often PCS — he said, “I think everything you just summed up there. I’ve had issues with everything so far, so, like I said, I have to see the doctors, get the help that I need and go from there.’’
And the most difficult of those symptoms?
“Oh, probably the depression part,’’ he said, his tone somber, his emotions clearly stirred. “That’s probably the toughest, so . . . that’s it.’’
This is why Savard’s road back is total guesswork and likely will remain that way for weeks, possibly months. His myriad symptoms of PCS must abate before he can begin working out; then he will have to get back on the ice and work his way into game condition.
Considering that he hasn’t played since mid-May, and that he skated for only a short time over the summer, he has a hefty, if not daunting, body of work in front of him.
“It’s one of those sciences that no one’s been able to figure out yet,’’ said coach Claude Julien. “Everyone’s dealt with it differently, everyone’s recovered from it differently.’’
In one sense, Savard is fortunate, not only to have identified depression as his most nagging symptom, but also to be playing in modern times when something that can be so bedeviling is treatable, accepted. In the old NHL, as well as perhaps most pro sports cultures, it easily could have gone undetected or dismissed by teammates as so much excuse-making, malingering, even faking.
“I don’t think there’s anybody in this room that has ever not been exposed to that kind of thing,’’ said Julien, noting that he “absolutely’’ understood what Savard said about depression. “Whether it’s family-related, friends or whatever, it is something that is very, very common, I think.
“Right now the toughest thing for him is that trouble controlling your feelings, and it has nothing to do with [him] personally. It’s inside. Guys find things that they can’t control tough, and right now he can’t control that.’’
Savard’s head is hurting, his emotions are scrambled, his career is on hold. The calendar tells us that hockey season is upon us. For now, Savard’s PCS has rendered his start date PPD, and that doesn’t look like it will change any time soon.
“He’ll take a deep breath right now,’’ said his agent, Neil Abbott, via e-mail. “He has a few options but wants to take the weekend to consider everything.’’
McLaren is only 33 and has the kind of size (6 feet 4 inches, 220 pounds) that might still attract some interest. Let’s not forget, Chris Chelios found work well past his 86th birthday.
Another option for Boston’s former first-round pick (No. 9, 1995) could be Europe, although league play has begun overseas. It could be a few weeks before general managers on either side of the Atlantic show any interest, which means McLaren will have to find a safe harbor to keep up his fitness level.
Some of the other veteran talent still looking for gainful employment:
■Miro Satan — As he was at the start of last season, he is still window shopping. The 35-year-old winger wasn’t bad with the Bruins, picking up 14 points in 38 regular-season games, then adding a respectable 5-5—10 in 13 playoff games. “We’re not in a position to add to our roster right now,’’ said Boston GM Peter Chiarelli. “He provided us with very good service last season, but right now we’re looking to stock with the players on hand.’’
■Jose Theodore — He put in his two years with the Capitals, but coach Bruce Boudreau lost confidence in him last season. At 34, this could be the end of the trail for the 2001-02 Vezina and MVP winner. Another former Habs goalie, once considered a Montreal deity, who just faded away very quietly.
■Marek Svatos — The Czech winger, only 28, broke in with 32 goals his rookie season, and some felt he projected as a perennial 35- to 40-goal scorer. But he has been plagued by injuries and inconsistency. He was limited to 54 games and 11 points with Colorado last year. His speed and scoring résumé, though a bit dusty, should bring some interest.
■Steve Begin — Lost his job here when Boston picked up Gregory Campbell in the Dennis Wideman trade with Florida. Did not provide enough of the edgy, antagonizing forecheck the Bruins hoped for when he signed on as free agent out of Dallas. Now 32 years old and left out in the cold because too many kids can do the job for minimum salary.
Material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.