The numbers were encouraging for the Capitals and defenseman Mike Green.
He was again an offensive force in 2013 with 12 goals to lead all NHL blueliners. He looked, at times, like the dynamic player who fueled one of the league’s great scoring machines just a few years ago.
But it can take a year before an athlete fully recovers from sports hernia surgery. Green had his on Jan. 17, 2012. Maybe it’s no surprise that he exploded during the second half of last season.
Those 12 goals and 14 assists (26 points) were impressive in a lockout-shortened campaign. But 19 of those points came after his return from a left groin injury on March 21. Add in the Stanley Cup playoff series against the New York Rangers and it was 12 goals and 11 assists in 26 games for Green. That was an astoundingly torrid stretch during a time when every game was critical to the Caps.
“We all know what [Green] can do when he’s healthy and feels good about himself,” Caps goalie Braden Holtby said last week. “We’ve seen it before. He was there again.”
Now, the question: Can Green maintain that health? Certainly he’s had his share of bad luck – a puck to the head and a questionable hit in 2010-11 essentially knocked him from the lineup for nine weeks late that season. In 2011-12 he missed 50 games and required that sports hernia surgery.
But even in a year when Green resembled his old self there were still those 13 games missed with a left groin injury. His league-leading goal-scoring numbers came in just 35 games.
So there was both promise and concern in 2013. With his age-28 season upcoming, can Green build on the flashes of defensive maturity shown in his game in recent years and again provide elite offense? If it happens he can absolutely win a Norris Trophy. But first things first – the Caps need him on the ice for 70 games this season.