Anaheim Ducks defenseman Simon Despres preparation for the season came with hope that he would be able to suit up and recapture the form that led to him inking a five-year, $18.5-million extension in October 2015. Instead, he finds himself one game into his new deal with questions about when he’ll even be able to return.
Despres, 25, dealt with concussion issues for much of the past season, and though Ducks GM Bob Murray hasn’t confirmed that it’s once again what Despres is battling through, it sure seems as though the young rearguard is fighting through concussion issues once again.
“The Despres situation is one that is a very sensitive issue and it’s one that my whole goal hopefully is make it that Simon at the end of all this lives a happy, healthy, normal life,” Murray said, according to ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun. “It’s going to take some time before we get to that point. Really, it’s all I want to say at this time on that because it is sensitive and I feel real bad for Simon.”
That’s awfully ominous considering just how much time Despres was forced to miss during the 2015-16 season due to concussions and related symptoms.
Despres’ fight with concussions started with a knock he took from Colorado Avalanche defenseman Tyson Barrie just days after signing the contract extension. The hit seemed somewhat innocuous at the time — it went without a penalty call and it took some time before it was clear what had put Despres out of the mid-October 2015 contest — but it resulted in Barrie being handed a three-game suspension. For Despres, it resulted in 42 games on the sideline.
He eventually worked his way back into the lineup, but before long, Despres again found himself on the shelf with a head injury. This time he missed six games. He was able to return to close out the season, and played the final four games of the year before suiting up in all six post-season games. He wasn’t completely healthy at the time, though.
“Well, I was sensitive to light,” Despres told the Orange County Register’s Eric Stephens before the season began. “Sensitive to noise. More emotional. I had headaches. Dizziness. Close to fainting. Stuff like that…It was a challenge. It was dangerous.”
The concern now becomes Despres’ future. He hasn’t played since opening night and he’s been out with an “upper-body” ailment since the second game of the season. At 25, he no doubt had a lot of hockey left in him, but it appears he now finds himself in a similar situation to that of Ottawa Senators winger Clarke MacArthur, having suffered multiple concussions in a short period of time.
As Murray said, though, the hope has to be not for Despres’ return to the ice, but for him to be able to live a “happy, healthy, normal life” away from the rink.
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