Tanner Pearson faces an uncertain future after multiple surgeries on his hand, but the Vancouver Canucks are confident in their medical staff and processes after conducting an internal review of the injured forward’s care.
President of Hockey Operations Jim Rutherford, Chief Medical Officer Dr Bill Regan and Health and Performance Consultant Dr Harry Sese met the media on Monday, four days after announcing that Pearson would miss the rest of the season after a third surgery. A few hours after this announcement, the defender Quinn Hughes said Pearson’s injury “wasn’t managed properly.”
The 30-year-old injured his hand when he was hit by a shot during a game against the Montreal Canadiens on November 9. The Canucks originally announced he would be out 4-6 weeks. Now it is unclear when he will be able to play again.
“It’s about [Pearson’s] health, bring it back to 100% if possible,” Rutherford said, “And hopefully the right things have been done and if they haven’t been, that they will change in the future.”
Rutherford opened the investigation after Hughes’ post-match comments on January 12. Rutherford said he has since spoken to everyone involved in the process who has dealt with Pearson and asked if the player has ever expressed any concerns.
“I couldn’t find a single person who was told it wasn’t handled properly,” Rutherford said.
Pearson has skated with the team since his injury and coach Bruce Boudreau initially said he could join the Canucks for a five-game road trip that ended Sunday. Instead, general manager Patrik Allvin announced on January 12 that Pearson had “a setback in his recovery” and would miss the remainder of this season.
Regan, who has been on the Canucks medical staff for more than two decades, described the injury assessment and rehabilitation process, noting the experience of everyone involved and adherence to NHL standards.
“Nevertheless, no matter how excellent a patient’s care is, including adherence to best practice guidelines, complications do occur,” Regan said. “I will tell you that in this case, the surgeons involved in the management of Tanner Pearson have many years of experience and are internationally known. On a personal note, I would ask any surgeon involved in his care to operate on any of my family members without hesitation.
“That said, in Tanner’s case, there were two setbacks that blocked his recovery. Tanner was examined by three external consultants who in turn consulted with other trusted colleagues outside the organization in order to to get consensus on the best way to move forward with his care.”
Neither Regan nor Rutherford would elaborate on the nature of those setbacks or how many surgeries Pearson has had or is expected to have in the future, citing patient confidentiality and privacy laws.
Rutherford said he believed the NHL Players’ Association was meeting Monday to discuss the matter. He also said he was open to outside scrutiny.
“But internally we’re comfortable with the way things have been handled,” Rutherford said.
Pearson had five points (one goal, four assists) in 14 games this season, his fifth in Vancouver, while averaging 13:30 of ice time, including on the shorthanded and on the power play. He had 272 points (133 goals, 139 assists) in 590 games in 10 NHL seasons with the Canucks, Pittsburgh Penguins and Los Angeles Kings, who selected him in the first round (30th overall) of the 2012 NHL Draft. Pearson has one season left on a three-year, $9.75 million contract.