Carlyle expects James Reimer to practice Friday after scary head hit

The Leafs lost 3-2 on Thursday night to Carolina. The recap post is here, but there’s going to be some spillover thanks to some scary comments made by Randy Carlyle in the wake of James Reimer being taken out of the game very early on after taking a shot to the head from teammate Josh Leivo.

Carlyle’s postgame comments via after the jump:

“He got a headache. He got hit. Basically we do the same thing with any player. If they have a headache, they basically got… run over a little bit by our own player Josh Leivo ran into him and got a little bit of either a thigh or a knee to the neck area and took him out of the game.

Well yeah, you’re always concerned when any player gets pulled out of a hockey game because of an injury, but this one, there is a history there, so you have to worry about it, for sure.”

That first bit really bugs me because the Leafs do not have a very good recent history when it comes to properly treating concussions. Carlyle mentioned the “history” but strayed away from the word “concussion”. Obviously, the way that the Leafs treat the situation internally matters much more than what they tell reporters externally, but Carlyle added later in the conference that he expects Reimer to practice tomorrow.

Actions speak much louder than words. “We don’t use that word until we’re 100% sure” Carlyle told Mark Masters last seasonafter Joffrey Lupul took a shot to the head and struggled off the ice. Our own Jeffler had a great post in April summarizing the Leafs’ problematic treatment of headaches, upper-body injuries, periodical bouts of dizziness, and the like.

Last season, Nazem Kadri and Jake Gardiner both played shifts with the Marlies after sustaining hits to the head. Gardiner’s status was eventually upgraded to “symptomatic to a concussion” while we never got a full update on Kadri. Mikhail Grabovski, John-Michael Liles and Colby Armstrong all played shifts with the big club, within the last two seasons after sustaining head hits, with Liles and Armstrong both eventually winding up sitting out thanks to concussions.

Reimer himself. Carlyle brings up the history. Dave Feschuk did some digging and found that Reimer’s concussion sustained in the early 2011-2012 season after a hit from Brian Gionta was one of “several” concussions. Per James’ mother Marlene, the Leafs were never clear with their goaltender’s status.

“That’s the frustrating part for us — not knowing what it is, and why they’re not calling it a concussion when they say ‘concussion-like symptoms,’” Marlene Reimer said. “Like, how is that not a concussion? … The initial test showed him to be clear of a concussion. But as it goes on, it’s kind of mystifying. He’s okay some days. And some days he’s definitely not okay.”

Reimer’s agent would tweet out in June of that year that Reimer had been “symptom-free since April”, although he played 27 games between sustaining the hit from Gionta and when his season was shut down for good after March 23. The worst thing somebody can do when they have a head injury is to try and play through it, since that can cause a more serious concussion (it should be common knowledge by now, but this easily-readable concussion guide from the Mayo Clinic preaches patience in both diagnosis and return).

Just to put my mind at easy, Carlyle should have said: “knowing James’ history, we’re going to give him the day off tomorrow and re-evaluate his situation later”. Steve Simmons anonymously quoted a Leafs executive after the trade for Jonathan Bernier that said that of Reimer “he treats the common cold like knee surgery” and the Leafs are down on Reimer’s inability to play when ‘slightly’ hurt.

The obvious inference though is that the Leafs don’t know how to properly evaluate concussions as soon as they happen. Reimer hasn’t practiced tomorrow nor has he been diagnosed, but the worst thing the Leafs can do is rush Reimer back at this point. We’ll see what happens Friday morning.

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