Montreal Canadiens sniper Cole Caufield met with the media on Friday to discuss the injury that led to the decision to undergo surgery.
The talented winger was far removed from his usual upbeat self, an understandable attitude given his passion for playing hockey.
His patented, spirit-lifting smile was nowhere to be found.
Caufield reveals he dislocated his shoulder in Dallas prior to Christmas, and once again in Nashville, shortly thereafter. Both times Caufield ended up popping his shoulder back into place.
The surgery, which will repair a torn labrum in his shoulder, is scheduled for early next month, taking place on Wednesday, Feb.1.
He will be operated on by surgeon Dr. Peter Millett at The Steadman Clinic in Vail, Colorado. It is the same surgeon who operated on Josh Anderson, who, according to Caufield, suffered the same injury. Typically, the recovery time is in the six-month range, although it took Anderson an extra month to get back on the ice following his procedure.
“I think everybody is different,” said Caufield. “I’m a younger guy, so hopefully my body can heal faster. The timing of this is so I am ready for next season, back at 100%. It’ll be a long process, but it’ll be something I’ll work hard at and be back as soon as possible.”
Truth be told, Caufield wanted to keep playing. It wasn’t just evident by his tone, but by the fact that the Canadiens had to remove his equipment from the locker room to prevent him from sneaking back on the ice.
Such is life for an athlete who can no longer ply his trade. It’s a frustrating situation in more ways than one. Not only does it prevent them from doing the only thing they’ve focused on their entire life, but it also leaves them without the sense of worth providing by being part of a team.
In the meantime, his absence should give opportunities for players such as Rafael Harvey-Pinard to earn a job in the NHL.
“I just want to be out there,” Cole Caufield said. “It’s tough watching, not being out there with your teammates. Again, the people around me that I trust have been nothing but honest with me. Throughout his whole process, it’s about learning for myself. A couple of doctors have looked at it. They all agreed this is what’s best.
“If it were up to me, I’d still be out there. But it’s about the recovery process.”
Caufield spoke to Anderson and Zach Werenski, who also underwent season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum.
They both confirmed to the young phenom that surgery was the best option, even if pain management isn’t an issue, which was the case for Caufield.
He suffered no pain when he’d get hit, nor did the injury impact his shooting ability. The pain only came to the forefront when he would fall.
“It’s been hard to come to this conclusion,” said Caufield. “But it’s something you have to take seriously. The best option is to take the most time for recovery. After the second fall, it was pretty clear we had to get some tests done. After the first one, I didn’t think of it. The doctor I am going to get surgery with told me it was pretty serious. One more awkward fall could make it much worse. I just want to feel 100%. I’ll work as hard as I can to be back there. But for me, it’s all about feeling healthy.”
It was a difficult lesson for the 22-year-old forward, but an important one, putting an onus on his health rather than his on-ice performance, a complete reversal of his approach to hockey in the past.
Caufield is not just a key part of the roster, he’s a crucial part of the foundation upon which the Canadiens build their roster and pin their hopes.
The decision, based on long-term value rather than short-term gains, may have been difficult to accept, but there’s no doubt it’s the best decision for all involved.
Particularly for Cole Caufield.