Boston Bruins forward Marc Savard made it official Monday, saying he would miss the rest of the season and playoffs due to ongoing problems stemming from concussions. The Bruins placed him on season-ending injured reserve.
Just more than two weeks since his second concussion in 10 months, Savard said at a news conference Monday he was still experiencing post-concussion symptoms, including headaches, short-term memory loss and "seeing dots." He missed the first 23 games of the season due to post-concussion symptoms stemming from a concussion he suffered last March 7 on a blindside hit from Matt Cooke.
"It was a tough decision … but it was the best decision to say I was done for the season and for the playoffs," said Savard, who was flanked by general manager Peter Chiarelli and team physician Dr. Peter Asnis at the news conference. Team captain Zdeno Chara and alternate captains Patrice Bergeron and Mark Recchi were also present.
"We spoke on a couple of occasions after [the latest concussion]," Chiarelli said. "He's been having recurring symptoms and obviously the proximity between the last concussion and this concussion have led us to this decision. Over the weekend, I met with Marc's representative, Larry Kelly. Marc met with the doctors and the medical staff here on Friday and we came to this conclusion."
Savard, who on more than one occasion during the news conference seemed to fight back tears, recalled his latest concussion, which was sustained on a hit by former teammate and current Avalanche defenseman Matt Hunwick in a 6-2 Bruins win at Colorado on Jan. 22.
"I think when that hit happened against Colorado, I said to [athletic trainer Don DelNegro], 'Why? Why again?'" Savard recalled. "So it's tough. I guess things happen in hockey. It's a fast game and it's something that I'll just have to get over."
Savard, who said he suffered a blackout immediately after the hit in Colorado but termed it "nothing compared to the first one," referring to the Cooke hit last March. He said he has been scared of the symptoms he has been having recently and that helped him realize the decision to shut it down was the best one.
"There's still some headaches off and on," he said, "but the thing that scares me most is little memory things where I forget I've asked someone a question or little things like that."
Asnis said it's not clear what effect the previous concussion had on this injury.
"As far as this hit goes, he sustained a concussion, and he likely would have whether or not he sustained a concussion last year," Asnis said. "Certainly we worry about players who have multiple concussions, going forward.
Cooke's hit led the NHL to outlaw blindside hits to the head. Chiarelli said the blindside hit rule has helped, but he also thought the league should look at other ways to keep players safe, like making the pads softer.
"I think we have to be careful with the integrity of the game," he said. "But I do think we have to look at that."
Many have questioned whether the 33-year-old Savard, who last season signed a seven-year deal worth $4.2 million per season against the salary cap, would be wise to call it a career rather than risk further injury. Savard said Monday he is blocking out the thought of retirement for now.
"I've obviously tried to stay away from that right now," he said. "It's tough enough as it is to not be able to finish the season. I'm going to get some more medical stuff done, and then I'll be able to make a clear decision on my future. Right now, I'm hoping to be able to continue at some point."
For now, it appears Savard has made the right decision and his teammates support that.
"I told him really make sure you're honest with yourself and really make sure you know how you're feeling," said Bergeron, who suffered a major concussion of his own on Oct. 27, 2007 that forced him to miss the remainder of the 2007-08 season. "I think he did that. It was tough for him to make that decision and I think the doctors and all the medical staff and management did a great job like they did with me and I'm sure they're going to do the same thing with him."
Placing Savard on IR gives the Bruins some breathing room under the salary cap, freeing up space for Chiarelli to pursue an impact center to take his place on the roster. The trade deadline is Feb. 28.
The Bruins recognize the void in skill that Savard's departure has caused, but they're confident in their depth up the middle. So they seem willing to add offense at either wing or center. They recalled forward Jordan Caron from Providence of the AHL. Caron has appeared in 20 NHL games this season for Boston, scoring three goals with four assists.
"We built the team down the middle, or straight down the middle with our centermen, and obviously there will be a gap now," Chiarelli said. "So we're going to have to look to fill that gap. We're not going to be able to replace Marc. So we're going to have to be a little more diligent seeing what's out there.
"Right now we're looking at Zach Hamill up the middle and don't know if he's the answer or not, but we want to go far in the playoffs and we want some experience too. We're obviously going to have some flexibility now with replacement players, so in the next few weeks prior to the trade deadline, we'll be busy."