Young defencemen feel Cowen’s pain

It might not serve as much consolation for injured Ottawa Senators defenceman Jared Cowen, but Erik Gudbranson and Calvin de Haan have a pretty good idea how he’s feeling these days.

Young defencemen feel Cowen’s pain

It might not serve as much consolation for injured Ottawa Senators defenceman Jared Cowen, but Erik Gudbranson and Calvin de Haan have a pretty good idea how he’s feeling these days.

Cowen, the Senators’ 21-year-old defenceman, is undergoing surgery — widely believed to be hip-related — which could keep him from playing for the rest of the season. It’s a colossal blow to the Senators organization, which expected him to serve as a top four defenceman this season and as a rock-solid defensive counterpoint to offensive catalyst Erik Karlsson for years to come. The Senators will be hard pressed to find a replacement for Cowen if the NHL lockout ends.

Yet the Cowen storyline is also eerily similar to that of Gudbranson and de Haan.

All three are defencemen are in their early 20’s, selected in the first round of the NHL draft. All have strong Ottawa connections. And they were all looking forward to showcasing their talents in the American Hockey League during the lockout.

Then came the developments of the past few months.

Gudbranson, the 20-year-old who grew up in Gloucester and was the third overall selection by the Florida Panthers in the 2010 draft, was on his way to San Antonio of the AHL before suffering a shoulder injury during an informal workout in early September. Following surgery, he’s now in the midst of a four-month rehabilitation process.

De Haan, a 21-year-old from Carp and the 12th overall selection by the New York Islanders in the 2009 draft, was with Bridgeport of the AHL in late October when he suffered a shoulder injury of his own — his third major shoulder problem in the past four years — also resulting in surgery. The recovery time is expected to be six months. His entire season likely lost.

And then came word from the Senators Monday that Cowen, the Senators’ ninth choice in the 2009 draft, is having a “surgical procedure” to deal with a “lower body” injury suffered while with Binghamton of the AHL. The Senators are providing no details until the surgery is completed, but generally, it takes four to six months to recover from hip surgery, meaning that Cowen is unlikely to play anywhere again this season.

So, what’s with all the bad luck for the threesome? Is it something in the water? Is it all an ugly, nasty coincidence?

Whatever the case, de Haan can certainly understand the emotions Cowen is going through.

“Obviously, at first I was kind of depressed at being injured, but it really is more bad luck than anything,” said de Haan, currently rehabilitating in Bridgeport. “Some critics might say (the shoulder) is too weak, but there’s nothing you can do about it.”

De Haan has had a few weeks to deal with his setback, which he says resulted from an innocent play in front of the net, and has found some perspective. He came home before Hurricane Sandy hammered the east coast of the United States and is now back in Connecticut, riding a stationary bike and walking on a treadmill.

Other than that, he jokes, he’s limited to “playing video games” until strength returns in the shoulder.

“This year would have been a good year to play and develop, but I’m still playing professional hockey and a lot of guys would like to be in my position,” he says. “Some fans think that guys that get injured are made of glass, but it’s just bad luck. Some guys can play until they’re 40 and never miss a game, but there’s so much that can happen out there — blocking shots, getting smoked in the corner, whatever.”

De Haan played his one and only NHL regular season game last season and was pushing for at least a part-time role with the Islanders this season, but he’s not bitter at his current situation.

“Regardless of whether I play another NHL game, I’m going to have a healthy shoulder for the rest of my life,” he says.

Gudbranson and Cowen both have a full NHL season behind them, but like de Haan, the challenge now is trying to keep the focus on day-to-day recovery without looking too far ahead.

kwarren@ottawacitizen.com
Twitter.com/Citizenkwarren

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