It really was kind of quirky.
After the Avalanche’s 2-0 loss to the Hurricanes in Raleigh on March 10, Gabriel Landeskog seemingly eagerly jumped in as the first player on the Zoom call with the media.
He declared he had never in 11 years as captain used a post-game forum mainly to gripe about the officiating.
And then he griped about the officiating.
He mainly defended Nazim Kardi and pointed out what Landeskog believed to be unconscionable double standards in officials’ calls and non-calls when Kadri was involved.
Landeskog drew a mainly symbolic game misconduct in the final stretch of the game for speaking his mind to referee T.J. Luxmore, but that was secondary.
He didn’t seem to limp away from the table and microphone.
It turned out that Landeskog’s regular season had just ended — with 23 games remaining.
Two days later, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar announced Landeskog had been plagued by a troublesome knee injury and shortly would undergo surgery with the goal of returning late in the season or for the opening of the playoffs.
Landeskog was made available to the media for the first time since his surgery on Monday, the eve of Game 1 of the Predators-Avalanche first-round series at Ball Arena.
He’s expected to be back in the lineup after going through full practices Sunday and Monday. It’s possible he could jump right back onto the top line with Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen, or skate on the second line with Kadri, if Kadri — who missed his second straight practice Monday — is deemed sufficiently recovered from his non-COVID illness to play.
I asked Landeskog about how the injury and surgery seemed to come out of nowhere — even if it obviously hadn’t.
“I had played all year and there was no specific play where it happened,” Landeskog said. “It was just one of those things, wear and tear. It wasn’t getting any better. It was going the other way. So we decided to go that route and I’m happy I did. I feel good.”
How is he now?
“I feel good,” he repeated.
“You never know, with surgery there’s always risks,” Landeskog said. “I haven’t had a whole lot of surgeries in my career. I was confident. I talked to a lot of doctors, got some professional opinions and feel like I made the right decision for myself, but also for the team specifically. I’m looking forward to a long playoff run here and that was the goal, making sure that I was healthy for this part of the season.”
Clearly, Landeskog, doctors and the team concluded there was a cutoff date for the Swedish captain to be able to have the arthroscopic surgery and recover in time for the playoffs.
And it was an accurate timetable.
“It was bugging him for a little while,” Jared Bednar said Tuesday morning. “He was playing through it and still obviously was very productive. But over time the wear and tear of the season can hurt you a little bit more with some of the nagging injuries that you have. He went and had it looked at, kept playing through it and went and had it looked at again.
“If we’re going where we want to go, it could be a long playoff run, and that’s what we’re all hoping for and working towards. And if it kept getting worse, even at a gradual level, then it would hamper his play. So there was a timing issue in there that if he was going to get his knee fixed, he needed to get it fixed by a certain point and he decided to do that and make sure we get him back by playoffs.”
Landeskog finished the regular season with 30 goals and 29 assists in 51 games.
“You want to jump right back into it,” he said. “Obviously there’s some adrenaline of playoff hockey and that’ll come kid of naturally. I’ve been skating for 10 days or so now and started feeling really good. There’s going to be some timing things and stuff like that you want to get rid of and just force yourself to adapt that much quicker. But I’ve been watching a lot of hockey, especially the last weeks, trying to take some space and time away from the game and just enjoy family time, try to get away a little bit and recharge. I feel good and hopefully the adjustment period won’t be too long.”
Terry Frei (email@example.com, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is www.terryfrei.com and his bio is available at www.terryfrei.com/bio.html
His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here