Medically Speaking – What’s Going On With the Canucks?

By: Brayden Fengler / January 21, 2023  

Recently it has seemed that it’s far from just the Canuck’s’ on-ice performance that has been deserving of some real scrutiny. Sparked by a Quinn Hughes comment to the media the effectiveness and ability of the Canucks’ medical staff and overall method of dealing with injured players has come into question.

This article highlights some of the key quotes and opinions that have come out in the wake of Quinn Hughes’s initial comments to the media. This situation is serious in nature and will be presented in this article as such.

I can guarantee you that this article will be lacking any hot takes or brash statements. This time around with a Canucks controversy it’s more than just management or players that are in the spotlight, it is medical professionals and others employed by the club. With so much left unknown it’s important to be cautious.

Quinn’s Thoughts

Quinn’s comment came on Thursday, January 12th, while taking questions from the media post-game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. When asked about the Canucks’ recent announcement that forward Tanner Pearson would miss the remainder of the season after undergoing multiple hand surgeries in just a few months Quinn had this to say:

I feel bad for him. I mean, it wasn’t handled properly, and you know, it’s not really a good situation he’s got there, and hopefully, he’s going to be alright,

– Quinn Hughes

Of course, the main section of Hughes’ quote that has caused further discussion and debate is the mention that Quinn felt as though Tanner’s injury “wasn’t handled properly”. That may not have initially seemed like a loaded statement to Hughes, but when a high-profile player casts any doubt on a team’s ability to handle their assets, it rightly so raises many red flags.

No one inside a hockey organization could possibly rely heavier on that organization’s medical staff than the players whom they are hired to care for. If any player especially one as important as Hughes holds a negative opinion of how those staffers are doing their jobs, it is worth looking into.

The next day Quinn slightly walked back his statement from the Thursday night, shifting the focus to his feelings and concerns for Tanner as a person and away from blame on any one person, or group of people.

Quinn did not use his next media availability to point further blame on who may have handled Tanner’s injury poorly. However Hughes did not exonerate the medical staff from the conversation, and as a result the Canucks medical staff still remained under the microscope.

Pearson’s Injury

Pearson had a rough go with the Canucks this year, so much so that he has hardly spent much quality time with the team at all, playing only 14 games with Vancouver this season. unfortunately those 14 games will be the only games that Pearson plays this season.

In November, Tanner Pearson broke his hand during the teams game against Montreal and was slated to be out of the lineup for 4-6 weeks. However, it was announced on Jan 12th that Pearson would in fact not be coming back to the line-up at all this season, which is of course a drastic shift from the 4-6 week timeline that was initially given only a few months ago.

Tanner Pearson was reported to have had at least three different hand surgeries according to initial reporting by Rick Dhaliwal.

Putting a pin in the question of if that many hand surgeries is appropriate or not for what Pearson was and is dealing with, that most certainly doesn’t sound fun regardless. Quinn Hughes would no doubt be more privy to the nature of Pearson’s treatment, but even without added information it’s no wonder Hughes felt that something about Pearson’s situation was not handled as it should’ve been.

The Canucks Had This to Say

After Quinn’s initial comment, his follow-up comments, and the media storm that followed, the Canucks President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford addressed the media with a statement of his own on Monday.

Rutherford claimed that the Canucks performed a “thorough” review in regard to the topics raised in the comments about Tanner Pearson and his injury. Rutherford further claimed that he had never heard any comments similar to the ones that Quinn Hughes made last week in regard to the ability and confidence around the Canucks’ medical team.

Jim further defended the organization by saying that he checked in with every person who has been handling Tanner and his injury and he “couldn’t find one person that was told that it wasn’t handled properly”.

Jim was joined during this media availability by Dr. Bill Regan, Head Physician for the Canucks and Dr. Harry Sese, a new member of the Canucks organization recently brought on last year to observe the medical department’s operations and provide his feedback.

Dr. Regan outlined the recovery plan that he created and that the team has been following for Tanner Pearson. Dr. Sese spoke in more detail about specific rehabilitation methods in play in regard to Tanner Pearson’s injury.

Dr. Sese also addressed rumblings that the Canucks medical staff was brand new, and seemingly focused in on this topic to squash the storyline that perhaps errors were being made due to a completely new medical staff. This hypothetical line of thought is apparently not justified according to Dr. Sese.

This press conference was no doubt an effort by the Canucks to “show their work”. The effectiveness of a hugely important section of the organization was just put into question by one of their most high-profile players. It is clear why they felt that they needed to drag team doctors in front of the camera and present their side of the story.

At the end of the day, however, words are cheap. This is not to say that the Canucks or their doctors are misleading the public, or hiding an element of the truth, but perhaps there is more to the story or contrary medical opinions that may come out in the weeks ahead that could put this presser in a different light. Or we may learn that the Tanner Pearson situation was handled exactly as it should’ve been.

Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported last Saturday that the NHLPA is also getting involved. So if there is anything the Canucks did against Pearson’s interests while handling his injury, we may soon find out.

Far From Over

Regardless of How Pearson’s specific situation unfolds through the weeks ahead, there is and may continue to be more smoke around the Canucks, specifically regarding the way they handle player injuries.

In October, former Canuck Jason Dickinson recounted playing most of last season with a broken hand that wasn’t discovered by himself or Canucks medical staff… How one doesn’t know their own hand is broken is certainly one thing, but how medical professionals who oversee these players wouldn’t catch something like that is baffling if true.

This story with Pearson is also troubling from another perspective as Canucks star Elias Pettersson has had his own history of multiple wrist injuries that have kept him out of the lineup in recent years.

If there is any legitimate reason to be concerned about the Canucks’ ability to handle injuries, specifically hand injuries this should be extremely worrisome for Pettersson and fans of EP40 alike.

This story is likely to continue to develop in the weeks and months ahead. But if there was ever a good time to hope that there is more smoke than fire when dealing with a highly contentious situation, it would be during one like this, when players’ lives and livelihoods could very well be on the line.