ST. PAUL, Minn. – This has been one frustrating season for Wild captain Jared Spurgeon.
It started with a shoulder injury in the final road exhibition game, and he had been chasing it ever since. Unfortunately, this month, it came to an end after season-long wear and tear to his back and hip caused him and the Wild to conclude last week that this season needed to end so he could have back surgery early next month, followed by hip surgery in March.
The decision was made to get both ailments repaired now so he can get through the four-to six-month recovery time (for his hip) with time to spare before training camp starts next September.
Asked bluntly if he’s concerned about his career, the 34-year-old Spurgeon, who has three years left on his contract at $7.575 million per season said, “You’re not going to stop trying. It’s obviously a bump in the road, but that doesn’t put you down at the bottom.”
#mnwild captain Jared Spurgeon has been talking to Zach Parise (back) and Marco Scandella (hip), who have had similar surgeries, for several weeks. He’s confident he’ll come back from this: “Obviously a bump in the road, but that doesn’t put you down at the bottom.” pic.twitter.com/8b5kWsj3t2
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) January 25, 2024
Still, it was hard for Spurgeon to come to grips with only playing 16 games this season. But the veteran defenseman said Thursday that he has been in so much discomfort and that this season has been so frustrating that just having a concrete plan now has alleviated lots of stress.
“I think mentally, actually, when I finally got the answers and sort of a game plan, it was sort of a bit easier,” Spurgeon said. “Going through that — trying to figure stuff out, get it to the point where you could play — was obviously difficult, and then going through that and just not really feeling like anything was really working was very frustrating.
“Obviously, start of the year, to have an injury coming out of camp, it’s not ideal, and then to come in and sort of be battling something throughout the entire time was not something you’re looking for this year. Obviously, to be out for the year, to be injured at any point of time, is not what you want. To be able to sit back and now sort of have a plan is mentally a bit better for myself.”
In recent weeks, he has talked a lot to former teammate Zach Parise. Parise underwent a microdiscectomy in 2017, returned that season to score 15 goals in 42 games, scored 28 goals the following season for the Wild and, in the past two seasons, played full 82-game seasons and scored 21 goals last year for the Islanders. At 39 years old, Parise has taken more than half of the season off but is expected to soon sign a free-agent contract.
Spurgeon says his back injury is more minor than Parise’s. As for his hip, he’s been talking to his first Houston Aeros and Minnesota Wild defense partner, the St. Louis Blues’ Marco Scandella, a lot about his recovery last season from surgery to repair a torn hip joint.
“Being able to talk to (Parise) a lot the last couple months puts you at a better space in your mind,” Spurgeon said. “With Marco Scandella being a good friend of mine, he’s had things like this done on his hip as well. I’ve been able to talk to him as well.”
These are considered routine surgeries. Specifically, the hip surgery isn’t a resurfacing, which is what Patrick Kane had last year and Nicklas Backstrom recently had as well. Backstrom has essentially called it quits after trying to come back from it.
But Spurgeon said they just couldn’t get a handle on the injuries all season despite countless trips to see doctors. He’s attempted different types of treatments and injections, but enough was enough.
When he determined that he was not helping the team close to his standard and was in significant pain away from the rink, he finally decided it was time.
“We’re talking with the surgeons — I think after two months, you’re able to get out there, sort of skate around solo,” he said. “When stuff isn’t helping, that’s when you get to the point where you have to make a decision, I think, for what’s best for the team and yourself. We tried all different types of things and they weren’t calming stuff down now and then you end up getting scans and see what’s going on from there and then talk to the professionals and then go from there.”
Spurgeon will continue to be around the team a lot, but it has been difficult to fulfill his captain’s duties during many of this season’s tough times because, he said, “you’re not in the battle of it.”
So Spurgeon, who has played the second-most games in Wild history (867), has the team’s third-most assists (274) and leads all defensemen in goals (110) and points (384), said he has tried to be “a sounding board, whether it’s off the ice or in the gym, and always being there and if guys are asking questions, always voice your opinion about what you’re seeing with the guys — if they’re asking you. I’m still around all the time, trying to be that voice in there. But, like I said, it’s hard when you’re not in that battle on the ice. … You don’t get the exact feel of the game, or what’s going on in there. But to be able to come down and talk with them after games, and especially after wins, it’s a lot more fun.”
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Spurgeon has been impressed the way the Wild have played of late. They entered Thursday’s game against Nashville with wins in four of their past five games, and he especially has been blown away by rookie Brock Faber’s play this season.
“Brock, you can see how mature he is, and I think you could see that last year — such a calming presence back there,” Spurgeon said. “His skating is amazing, and I think we’ve had glimpses of the offense he can bring, but it’s just about getting that confidence to go out there and do it. The rest of the blue line, as well. There’s a lot of skilled players, and players that don’t get enough credit on our D corps, and I think they’re getting it now.”
At this point, Spurgeon called it a “moral victory” just to know what’s going on with his own body.
“But it’s never something you want to hear,” he said. “You want to play, you want to win. You want to get to the playoffs and get into that feeling and hoist that Cup, and it sucks sitting on the outside. But now, to have a plan going forward, mentally it helps a little.”
(Photo of Jared Spurgeon: David Berding / Getty Images)