No conspiracy: Holmgren explains JVR's off-season
VOORHEES, N.J. -- Conspiracy theorists have had a field day dissecting the latest bevy of injury updates on Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk, ever since a report surfaced a week ago that suggested he was delaying surgery to avoid being traded.
Since then, not only have general manager Paul Holmgren and van Riemsdyk both denied that suggestion, but the Flyers also have elected to not have the 23-year-old winger undergo surgery this off-season at all.
Sorry to disappoint those in search of a more sinister scheme, but the explanation behind the change of summer plans for van Riemsdyk isn’t anything complicated. Medical opinions about how to handle a relatively minor nagging hip issue simply changed.
“I just assumed, when I made the announcement there at the end of the year [that van Riemsdyk would have surgery], that’s the way we’re going to go,” Holmgren said. “And after [speaking with team doctors and van Riemsdyk’s physical therapists], we decided to go the way we’re going now.”
Van Riemsdyk had an undeniably tough season in 2011-12, sitting out 43 games in the regular season and playoffs because of a collection of injuries. But while the hip issue that is the center of attention now is something that has bothered him, it was never a reason behind any of the games he missed.
“We wanted what’s best for James,” Holmgren said. “… He didn’t miss a game last year because of a hip issue. He had other things that went on, obviously, a broken foot, a concussion. He had an oblique strain. Another strain in his rib cage.
“There’s an area of concern there [in his hip] that’s been identified, and we’re just going to move forward right now and deal with it. I don’t have a crystal ball to say when it will pop up. We have other players, quite frankly, over the last few years who have similar issues that still are playing and still have not had it addressed.”
Holmgren added that while van Riemsdyk will have to spend the summer rebuilding his strength, if the Flyers were to have a game next week, “he’d be able to play.”
Of course, just how much of an impact he’d be able to make remains a question.
Expectations were high for van Riemsdyk last season, after he signed a six-year, $25.5 million contract last August. But those aforementioned injuries prevented him from getting into any sort of a rhythm. He finished the season with 24 points (11 goals), showing brief signs of brilliance between stints spent watching his teammates from the press box.
But fans grew impatient with him, and since the trade deadline in February his name has consistently been floated around whenever the topic of Flyers trade bait is raised. On a team with so many players considered “untouchable,” van Riemsdyk is one of few forwards the Flyers could use to bring in another player. Columbus Blue Jackets captain Rick Nash has been the popular suggestion as of late – but the list certainly isn’t limited to him.
Holmgren is aware of all the rumors concerning van Riemsdyk in print and online, but he isn’t bothered by them or concerned at all for van Riemsdyk.
“I’ve had enough conversations with James over the last few years,” Holmgren said. “He should maybe take that as a compliment, that he keeps reading his name in those.
“I like James, I think he has a tremendous future in the league, and he’s one of our most gifted goal-scorers, and he’s 6-foot-4. He’s our player right now.”E-mail Sarah Baicker at email@example.com