BOSTON Marc Savard and the Boston Bruins arent about to make the same mistake again.
Savard suffered whats looking more and more like a career-altering concussion from an unpunished Matt Cooke elbow a hit that was dirtier than the grime beneath a mechanics fingernails that continues to haunt the playmaking center.
The 32-year-old is such a competitor that he, in retrospect, pushed himself back a bit too early when he returned for the Eastern Conference semifinals against the Philadelphia Flyers last spring. Savard has since admitted that post-concussion-syndrome symptoms recurred as that postseason series went on.
The tipping point for Savard came when he played 23 minutes in Game Four following David Krejcis season-ending wrist injury. He hasnt been the same since.
His team needed him, and he obliged with as much as he could possibly give against the Flyers. But he paid the price, suffering through a summer filled with fatigue, depression and symptoms associated with post-concussion syndrome.
Savard finally cleared that hurdle this season for a semi-triumphant return, but the damning fog returned after hits from Deryk Engelland of the Penguins and Matt Hunwick of the Colorado Avalanche two weeks ago.
Hoping to avoid a repeat of last season, when Savard perhaps pushed his body past the breaking point in the name of capturing a Cup, the Bruins are doing the right thing while leaving no wiggle room for themselves or their player.
General manager Peter Chiarelli announced Monday afternoon theyll be shutting Savard down for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs in the hopes of giving him the proper time to convalesce.
We feel that its best for his short-term, medium-term, and long-term welfare, security, his family, said Chiarelli. There are obviously a lot of consequences that flow from this.
Savards teammates, coaches, managers and friends all were uniform in their feelings on a day that felt more like a funeral than anything else: its about Savard the person getting better way before its about Savard the player returning to the ice.
I know he was working hard to come back and get to where he was at. I think he was frustrated at times, because it didnt come all the way back, said Chiarelli of Savard, who had 10 points and a minus-7 in 25 games. So those hits, I think they were in the gray area. Yeah, there was a concern, as a manager and as a friend . . .
Patrice Bergeron, along with fellow team captains Zdeno Chara and Mark Recchi, attended the press conference. He couldnt help but flash back to himself three years ago while watching Savard pale, frightened, withdrawn answering questions.
Bergeron could have been in the same situation had the Bruins advanced past the Montreal Canadiens in the 2007-08 playoffs. A Boston victory could have led to Bergeron returning from a concussion that cost him almost the entire regular season.
Looking back on it in retrospect, Bergeron said the Bruins dropping Game Seven to the Habs might have been the best thing that ever happened in his recovery from a sickening hit handed out by Philly defenseman Randy Jones.
You never want to see that happen to anybody, and when it happens to your teammate and friend its even worse, said Bergeron, who said hes texted back and forth with Savard about the symptoms hes going through in the latest concussion. Hes the one that knows his body the most, and he needs to make sure hes honest with himself.
Its not easy sitting out the rest of the season and Im sure that he really wants to come back this season. People talk about money, but thats not even an issue. This is our passion and we love to play this game. Hes shut down for the rest of the year and Im sure he doesnt even know what to do with himself. Hes probably going to take a lot of time to think about his future. Hes got to think about himself first and make sure hes feeling normal before he makes any decisions.
Bergeron knows how frustrated Savard feels about missing the upcoming postseason, and also knows itll be doubly frustrating if hes feeling fully back to health.
But sometimes professional athletes used to pushing their bodies past the limits of exertion need a concerned outside party holding them back from hurting themselves, and thats what the Bruins are doing.
Bergeron needed it when he was raring to hop into the playoffs in 2008, months before his body was again strong enough to take the NHL pounding.
Savard needs that kind of patience now.
Ive been through it. When the playoffs came around I was really itching to get back, said Bergeron. I was feeling better, but not returning was probably the best decision for me. The doctors making that decision and then me eventually agreeing with that decision was the best thing for me.
Looking back on it, I dont regret anything I did while recovering because I needed that full time to get back to normal, feeling confident and catching up to the speed of the game. For Savvy its about getting back to normal, working hard over the summer and getting ready for training camp.
Savard admitted to suffering fatigue, short-term memory loss and bouts of vertigo, along with random headaches and clear personality changes obvious to anyone familiar with him during his five years in Boston.
It made Savard seem like a ghost, or a haunted hockey soul, on a sad Monday afternoon at TD Garden.
Im having still some headaches off and on, said Savard. I think the things that scare me the most is little memory things or you know, I forget Ive asked someone a question or little things like that that scare me, and the odd dizzy stuff. So thats some stuff thats worried me.
Several times during the 24-minute press conference, Savard expressed frustration, sadness and obvious signs of depression while his eyes welled up as he vocalized his plight.
Savard was clearly thinking about hockey, but also 100 percent worried about the effect it might have on his career and life.
I think its just a mix. Ive got a lot of feelings going on. I think Im frustrated, mostly. Its tough to understand why this happens and obviously the most frustrating thing is to not be able to just know exactly whats going on and how to cure it, said Savard. And I think its just time and patience and those are things I feel like I dont have much of, so that makes it tough.
Nobody that watched Savard rolling around on the ice at the Pepsi Center, openly sobbing into a towel as he skated off the ice and asking Bs trainers Donnie DelNegro Why? Why me? can ever forget how damaging concussions have become in the NHL world.
The hope is that Savard can someday be a happy, healthy hockey player again bringing life and vivacious energy to the Bruins locker room. The Bruins made the bang-on correct decision by shutting down No. 91 to get him on that path.