The left winger acquired from Montreal in 2009 is sidelined for a second year in a row because of injuries.
You can see it in Guillaume Latendresse's unfocused eyes and you can hear it in his shaking words: He's devastated.
"I just kind of hope tonight at midnight, all that bad luck is going to leave and take somebody else," the Wild's power forward said New Year's Eve as he watched the team that pays him $2.6 million to not play lose to the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It's very frustrating for me and I think the organization, too," Latendresse continued. "I'm here to play hockey. I'm away from my family all year long and I'm not even playing hockey, so it's just, it's just, yeah, ... it's just really hard."
For the second consecutive year, Latendresse's season is being destroyed by injury, and he's feeling powerless.
Last season, abdominal and hip ailments limited him to 11 games. This season, back-to-back concussions have sidelined him for 23 of the past 25.
There is no targeted return date because Latendresse has started feeling symptoms again. He was lightly exercising and skating for 10 days, but because of an onset of symptoms, General Manager Chuck Fletcher said he was shut down again three days ago.
"One day I feel good, one day I feel average, one day I feel horrible," Latendresse said. "Every day is so different. I don't know how I'm going to feel tomorrow."
Latendresse, 24, worked his tail off last summer to drop weight in an effort to resurrect his career. He scored 25 goals in 55 games after being traded to the Wild from Montreal in 2009, but it's been downhill ever since he signed a two-year, $5 million contract.
Last season, he tried to return in March from surgery to repair five problems, including a torn labrum. Three games in, hip pain ended his season. This time he missed 15 games, returned Dec. 13 in Winnipeg and was lost one period into his second game, against Chicago on Dec. 14.
On one shift, he rattled Nick Leddy, then rocked Viktor Stalberg with an open-ice hit near the benches. That shift did in Latendresse.
"I'm that kind of player," Latendresse said. "Even when I had shoulder surgery [in 2009], when I come back I always try to test it and forget about it after, but this time, the head is a little different. I'll have to be more cautious next time."
Most frustrating, Latendresse scored in three consecutive games before his initial concussion. Then, in his return against Winnipeg, he scored again.
Now Latendresse talks like he believes his career in Minnesota will end after this season. After all, it would be difficult for the Wild to tender the restricted-free-agent-to-be a qualifying offer of $2.5 million after two injury-plagued seasons.
"I was starting to feel the way I felt three years ago, so at least I'm leaving on a good note," Latendresse said. "I know I can be productive in the league, I know I can bring something good to a team, but I think I just want to be part of the team here. I like the team here. I like the place.
"But it's really frustrating because you just want to play, and every time you try to come back, there's something new happening."
Still, Latendresse said he's not shutting the door on playing again this season.
"I try to be optimistic. If I just say to myself that I won't play, I don't think I'll play," Latendresse said. "I'm sure we'll be cautious, but I feel confident I'll be able to come back."
|Fla Gulf Coast||60|
|William & Mary||75||FINAL|
|South Dakota St||71|
|Mount St Marys||75|
|(18) Oklahoma St||61||FINAL|
|(7) West Virginia||67|
|(2) Notre Dame||69|