The most uplifting story of the Canucks season has turned into one of its most upsetting. After recommendations from doctors, Derek Dorsett will not return to the Canucks’ active roster and it seems certain that his playing career has come to a close.
This is devastating news for Dorsett, whose return from spinal surgery to become a key contributor to the Canucks was one of the best stories of the season. This was the worst case scenario when he returned to Vancouver from the Canucks’ road trip with symptoms of neck and back stiffness.
Dr. Robert Watkins, who performed Dorsett’s cervical fusion surgery, diagnosed Dorsett’s symptoms: “The latest evaluation of Derek's neck revealed that he's sustained a cervical disc herniation adjacent and separate to his previous fusion. Given his current condition and the long-term, significant health risks, I advised Derek not to return to play."
In the statement released by the Canucks, Dorsett addressed the diagnosis:
“I'm devastated by the news. It will take a long time for this to truly sink in. As hard as it was to hear, Dr. Watkins' diagnosis is definitive. There is no grey area, and it gives me clarity to move forward. I have a healthy young family and a long life of opportunities ahead of me. Hockey taught me a lot and it will help me be successful in whatever I choose to do in the future.
"I still have so many thoughts to share and people to thank for all of their support," continued Dorsett. "What I can say for certain right now is that I left it all out on the ice. I gave my heart and soul to the teams I played for and never backed down from a challenge, including this one. I am proud of the way I played. It made me successful and a good teammate. Most of all I am truly honoured and grateful to have lived the NHL dream."
When Dorsett returned to the lineup from his spinal surgery, he went straight back to the style of play that made him successful in the NHL: gritty and physical. Considering football players have returned to playing after similar cervical fusion surgeries, the risks seemed minimal and manageable.
Dorsett got off to a great start this season, on-pace for a career year. His seven goals at one point led the Canucks in scoring. He was better known, however, for his defensive play and for getting under the skin of his opponents. His first game of the season against the Edmonton Oilers might have been the best of his career, as he played a key part in shutting down Connor McDavid and effectively aggravated arguably the best player in the world. His goals and points, including a three-point night against the Buffalo Sabres, were just a cherry on top.
He finishes his career with 51 goals, 127 points, and 1,314 penalty minutes in 515 regular season games. He also appeared in 43 playoff games for the Blue Jackets, Rangers, and Canucks. For a seventh round pick, that’s a pretty impressive career. As of today, only 20 players from the 2006 draft have played more games than Dorsett.
Dorsett played 184 regular season games for the Canucks, as well as 6 playoff games. He also provided, according to Jim Benning, a key elbow for the Canucks' younger players to rub against. His work ethic and selfless attitude are certainly something the Canucks want to see from all of their youth moving forward.
Honestly, I'm glad that Dorsett is prioritizing his health and family. There are worse ways to go out than after arguably the best month of your career.