Blues remain cautious, optimistic; will
move on if necessary without him next season
By LOUIE KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- When he took the brunt of Joe Thornton's shoulder to the head in early November, who would have thought it would be David Perron's last game of the season?
But on that Nov. 4 night, Perron, who would finish off the game -- even score a goal in the Blues' 2-0 victory over Thornton and the San Jose Sharks -- saw his No. 57 sweater hung up for the last time this season (click here for related video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vJr33aaE_MM).
Perron would see 10 games before the last 72 would be spent mostly watching his teammates from the press box or in front of a television when permitted.
Not exactly what someone known as a rink rat had in mind.
Instead of spending the post-injury time working on and ultimately wondering when he would get back into the lineup after being diagnosed with a concussion, Perron will have the spring and summer to get himself ready to hopefully get back to doing what he does best.
The 2011-12 season won't officially begin until training camp gets underway in mid-September, but the Blues are hoping time -- which is basically all they and Perron have at this point -- will be the cure-all and the Sherbrooke, Quebec native can skate again.
But for the time being, Perron, who scored five goals and added two assists in 10 games last season, will spend however much time he needs where he grew up. The soon-to-be 23-year-old has gone home.
"When I feel good enough, I'll come back down here (to St. Louis)," Perron said. "... When I feel good enough, I'll do the protocol to get back."
The good news is Perron feels better than he did when he was hurt. But it seems like the progression has hit a plateau for the time being.
"You just stay positive and keep looking forward to the day it's going to be good enough," Perron said. "It's been better. I keep saying that, but it's just myself staying positive."
As positive as Perron tries to be, it has been the most frustrating 5-6 months of his playing career.
"You play hockey and you know stuff like that can happen sometimes," said Perron, who has not accused Thornton of hitting him deliberately. "It did, and it's a process I wasn't familiar with."
And even though there are roughly five months before camp opens, the Blues must face the prospects that No. 57 may not be with them when a new chapter unfolds, according to general manager Doug Armstrong when asked, based on what he knows at the present time.
"No," Armstrong said matter-of-factly. "Based on what we know, he hasn't changed from Game 11. ... If the season was to start tomorrow, he would not be in it. He would not be playing.
"The reality is, time being an ally in David's situation, we're going to give this time. But if we get into mid-summer, and he's at the same position he is this summer ... we have to hope for the best, but plan for him to not be part of our roster ... until he clears."
As difficult as it would be for the Blues to have to move on without Perron, they already did so for most of this past season already. But replacing a key piece who was expected to make great strides will be in line with the many challenges the Blues will have to face moving forward.
"It's unfortunate for Perry obviously missing the entire season," Blues coach Davis Payne said. "(But) with our young, skilled group and the names you're talking about ... the Perrons and the (T.J.) Oshies and the (Patrik) Berglunds, even a Chris Stewart, the years aren't necessarily behind him, more so in front of him.
"I think it's been a very, very valuable year for us in that regard."
Perron's plight continues to fluctuate, depending on what day it is. He admits to feeling good during the day, then experience symptoms, mostly in the evening/night hours.
The Blues tried to slowly have Perron begin a light workout regimen, primarily involving light bike riding. He even visited the same specialist while in Vancouver that helped teammate Andy McDonald and various other NHL players who have dealt with the same types of symptoms.
Perron would not disclose what he is/isn't allowed to do these days as far as workouts go but did say he continues to search for ways until finally finding the right formula.
"There's not much I didn't try to do to get better and we're still looking obviously to find if there's stuff out there that can help or not," Perron said. "... You want to be out there and maybe create a spark and help the team."
Perron's plight could determine if the Blues would be more aggressive in pursuing a forward. If they are fortunate enough to get him back, likely not. Without him, it's a toss-up.
"It's an ugly part of the business, where you care about the individual as a person, you want the best for them, but you can't leave roster spots on the hope and the wish and the maybe," Armstrong said of Perron. "His health will tell us how close he is or how far he is. Then you have to respond to it. But we don't have to make that decision as an organization until July at the absolute earliest."
It's not that the Blues are thinking Perron won't be back. They're just being realistic.
"When he got hurt, did I expect him to be back on January 1? Sure. Did I expect him to be back on February 1? Sure. Did I expect him to be back March 1? Sure. Do I expect him to be back? Sure, I expect him to," Armstrong said. "But all those dates are getting clicked off the calendar and that piece of paper getting thrown away and you get into the next month.
"I was trying to say, if training camp started tomorrow and we had one month, I wouldn't expect David to be on the ice. Now, that's not the case, so I'm not trying to be evasive, but I don't have a crystal ball. I don't know how he's going to feel. What we have to do now is get David healthy enough just to be able to train to play. With these concussions, we all know, he can't train yet. He doesn't have the ability to go for a six- or eight-mile run or ride the bike for an hour. He's still showing symptoms, keeping him inactive from physical exertion."
Perron vows to be back one day, determined to make it all the way back. It's a similar challenge he faced trying to make into the NHL, period.
"I swear, I don't care if I'm still not feeling better in September, I'll still say the same: When I was younger, I had my back against the wall to make it to the NHL and I found a way," Perron vows. "So I know I'll find a way, and I don't care what way it is ... I'll get there one day."