No one knows if and when Marc Savard will return this season. Bruins fans will remain hopeful that Savard can make a return similar to that of Patrice Bergeron, who suffered his second concussion before returning to the ice soon thereafter. However, there's also the chance that Savard never returns to the form that made him such a terrific player.
It's something that happens in sports, but that doesn't make it any easier to take when it does happen — especially when it's one of your guys.
If Savard never returns to the form he showed for years before his unfortunate run of concussions, Bruins fans will always look back to one person as the culprit — Matt Cooke.
It was Cooke's hit that started this nightmare for Savard. If Savard never again becomes the player he once was — or if he doesn't return at all — it will be Cooke who is villainized in Boston, even more so than he already is.
In that way, Cooke is a lot like another Boston sports villain, one who played hockey in the same town as Cooke, Ulf Samuelsson.
Speaking on 98.5 The Sports Hub on Wednesday, Bruins president Cam Neely spoke about Savard's injury and touched on hitting in hockey. In doing so, Neely may have made a thinly veiled reference to Samuelsson, a player who can be credited for cutting short Neely's Hall of Fame career.
"This isn't the first time it's happened. It's happened as long as hockey's been around; that someone takes a cheap shot that ends their career or limits their career," Neely said in reference to the Cooke hit that started this whole mess for Savard.
Neely was talking about Cooke and Savard, but he could have just as easily been talking about himself and Samuelsson. After all, Neely has directly attributed his chronic injury problems that shortened his career to Samuelsson.
"I don't respect the way the guy played," Neely said a few years back (more in the video below). "He wore that suit of armor, had huge shoulder pads, that face shield and didn't want to fight.
"To me, if you play a certain way, you gotta be prepared, you know you're gonna upset some people. Be prepared to drop your gloves and go at it and settle your differences."
(For what it's worth, Cooke also wears a shield, even furthering the comparison.)
Cooke, like Samuelsson has shown in the past a hesitation to drop the gloves. He answered the bell when Shawn Thornton came calling in the first game after the Savard hit, but it wasn't like he had a choice. More often than not, though, it seems as if Cooke would rather stir the pot, and then walk away before whatever is in the pot actually boils over.
Perhaps that is what can be drawn most from the comparison of these two "agitators." Maybe it's not that the NHL needs to come down harder on hits to the head and the like, but it needs to come down hard on those who gain reputations for questionable hits.
There's a reason that Cooke has a reputation across the game for the type of player he is. Some even say that he embraces it, that he likes to be hated. If that's not damning enough evidence of someone who plays with the reckless abandon that can — and has — gotten someone hurt, then what is?
Neely also said during his radio spot on Wednesday that physical play is an "integral" part of the game. As someone who wasn't afraid to deliver the body — and then back it up by dropping the gloves — Neely knows best what clean, but hard-hitting hockey is.
For more unfortunate reasons, he knows just as well what dirty hockey looks like. More appropriately, he knows what dirty hockey feels like. Whether or not Marc Savard returns to the same playing capacity he was once at is unknown. There's no denying, though, that he now regrettably shares the same type of experiences that derailed Neely's career too soon.
Time will tell whether or not Savard returns to the player he once was, or whether he even returns at all. Bruins fans are surely hoping that he does return.
After all, it'd be a shame to see another teary-eyed news conference end what could have been a much more successful chapter in Bruins history all because of irresponsible hockey.