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Catching Up With Eric Fehr

(John McDonnell - The Washington Post)

When I caught up with Eric Fehr earlier this week, the Caps winger confirmed what we already suspected: There's a pretty good chance he won't be ready for the start of training camp after having surgery on both shoulders in May.

"I would say it's probably 60-40 that I won't be ready," he told me from Winnipeg. "I don't think I'm behind schedule. I actually think I'm right on schedule, if not a little ahead."

If his rehab continues to progress as expected, Fehr hopes to play opening night or soon thereafter.

"Just because I'm not ready for camp doesn't mean I won't be ready for the regular season," he said. "I'm in pretty good shape; my legs ... I just can't take a crushing check yet."

Fehr suffered the first injury in December when he collided with the padded turnbuckle near the visitors bench at Air Canada Centre as he attempted to skate around a Maple Leafs player. The 23-year-old Fehr missed five games, but conceded he was hindered by his shoulder for the rest of the season.

"You have to be very careful, is the best way to put it," he said of playing hurt. "I'm not going to blame [anything] on my shoulders. But let's just say I would have been better off with two good shoulders."

Fehr finished the regular season with 12 goals and 13 assists in 61 games -- all career highs.

But before he could get his left shoulder fixed, Fehr suffered a second torn labrum -- this one in his right shoulder -- after the Penguins' Ruslan Fedotenko, of all people, caught him by surprise with a hard shoulder-to-shoulder check as the two pursued a loose puck in the second round of the playoffs.

"I was borderline for Game 7" of the Pittsburgh series, Fehr said. "If they really needed me to go, I could have gone. But we had enough players. I would have played in the third round. You can play with it, like I did after the [first] injury in Toronto. But you're pretty limited."

After the Caps were eliminated, Fehr was faced with a decision: have one shoulder surgically repaired this summer, then go through the same thing next summer, or have both shoulders fixed at the same time.

The choice, Fehr said, was an easy one.

"I wasn't going to sacrifice two summers of working out when I could just bite the bullet and get them done in one shot," he said. "In my mind, that's a no-brainer."

For the first two weeks after the surgery, Fehr said he was pretty much helpless. So his wife, Rachel, had to help him with just about everything.

"My wife is a nurse, so she was on call 24 hours," he said. "She couldn't leave me the first few weeks. I was hopeless. I could feed myself, barely, but that's about it."

Since then, Fehr has been rehabbing five times a week in Winnipeg, focusing on regaining his strength and range of motion. He still can't lift weights and hasn't been on the ice, but he's been running and biking to maintain his cardio fitness.

"I'm just doing every shoulder exercise you can imagine," he said. "I still haven't gotten my range of motion all the way back. But the strength is coming back."

It's not exactly an ideal way to enter what figures to be a pivotal season for Fehr, a former first-round pick who has endured his share of injuries. Including Fehr, the Caps have 13 forwards on the roster and there are a few Hershey Bears looking to win a spot in camp.

"I'm not really thinking about that," he said. "I'm just worried about getting healthy. I want to be in the lineup. I'll do whatever it takes to get in the lineup. When I'm healthy, that stuff will work itself out."

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  August 5, 2009; 9:17 AM ET
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FIRST. Fehr's the man, he'll have a breakout season eventually.

Posted by: my92agsr | August 5, 2009 9:27 AM | Report abuse

Sounds like LTIR to start the season and a little extra cap space. No hurry to rush back, you will the Cup in June not October

Posted by: RichC3 | August 5, 2009 9:30 AM | Report abuse

Tarik,Did Eric have the surgery done in Canada or US? seems to me I've heard elective surgery is being on a waiting list in Canada, about 18 to 20 weeks.

Posted by: billd2 | August 5, 2009 9:35 AM | Report abuse

I also think Fehr will breakout. Hopefully he gets completely healthy and plays great THIS season.

Posted by: ZMANN84 | August 5, 2009 9:38 AM | Report abuse

When do we give up on this kid?

Posted by: thiazzi | August 5, 2009 9:40 AM | Report abuse

@billd2 who cares where he had surgery, and I doubt it was elective if his labrum was torn. Now if he wants a tummy tuck or vasectomy, seems a little more elective.

Posted by: bhound69 | August 5, 2009 9:45 AM | Report abuse

i think you can give up on him after the 2010-2011 season. You see what he can do this year after strengthening, and then you give him an offseason to lift the entire time. Then you cut him if he fails. But he won't, he'll be good.

Posted by: my92agsr | August 5, 2009 9:47 AM | Report abuse

LTIR? Dude only makes $715k for a full year. He needs the PT and full season without injury to help his development and break out.

He might be the future top line RW that Knuble is slotted in for now if he can finally get past the injuries that have plagued his development.

Posted by: cwiseman | August 5, 2009 9:49 AM | Report abuse

I think most Caps fans wish the best for this kid but he still has alot to prove to us all. He was hot for a short while then faded away. A little tired of hearing about his injuries. Show us the money Fehr.

Posted by: dsphvywght | August 5, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

With the talent developing in Hershey, I would think Eric has to become a top-six forward to stay here in DC, and at this point he's down to 1-2 more seasons left at the most.

Billd2 - I thought NHL players get to the front of the elective surgery line in Canada.

Posted by: guiliano89 | August 5, 2009 9:50 AM | Report abuse

Tough board, just was interested to know about the surgery, lighten up eh?
LOL on the NHL waiting line.

Posted by: billd2 | August 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

I agree with RichC3 regarding LTIR. It's August 4 and he can't lift weights. No way he's ready plays in 2 months - more less 4 months.

Bummer for Eric, fighting through one major injury after another. He can't shake the bad luck. What's next on the horizon?

Posted by: puckman | August 5, 2009 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Whoa, Fehr is a married man? I just didn't see it in him, at least not at this young age.

Posted by: Semvechkin | August 5, 2009 9:56 AM | Report abuse

Here's to a speedy recovery for Fehrsy. I really hope he comes back and kills it this year. He can learn from Knuble about how to play power forward.

And I really the way he hustles and backchecks. Something I think we can all agree our other forwards need to do more often.

Posted by: pkendrick | August 5, 2009 10:06 AM | Report abuse

Fehr had surgery at the Cleveland Clinic. I think it was the same doctor who did Nylander's shoulder.


Posted by: el_bashir | August 5, 2009 10:10 AM | Report abuse

@ Tarik
thanks for info

Posted by: billd2 | August 5, 2009 10:22 AM | Report abuse

With every passing season, Fehr reminds me more of Pat Peake.

Posted by: madflava | August 5, 2009 10:34 AM | Report abuse

Take your time, Eric. Don't rush things. Glad he's progressing though. Brava! to his wife for all her efforts.

Posted by: pstenigma | August 5, 2009 10:39 AM | Report abuse

He's 23.

Posted by: numero94 | August 5, 2009 10:43 AM | Report abuse

If the same doctor did Fehr shoulder that did Nyls, does that mean when he starts skating again he will skate in Circles? Sorry could not resist.

Posted by: RichC3 | August 5, 2009 10:56 AM | Report abuse

Fehr is going to pan out well. I didn't think so before, but a few beers with Numero94, and I was convinced otherwise. He's got the attitude, the size, and the determination. Physically, he's had some problems, but those appear to be in the corrective stages. At 772K, he had 12G, 13A and a +8. I'm ok with that for now.

Posted by: Fro_ | August 5, 2009 11:08 AM | Report abuse

He is screwed!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | August 5, 2009 11:12 AM | Report abuse

Ryan Getzlaf is healthy!

Posted by: lylewimbledon | August 5, 2009 11:21 AM | Report abuse

tarik, i know eric speaks english, but it might be funnier if you had this interview translated into russian and then back into english.

Posted by: dcsportsfan1 | August 5, 2009 11:22 AM | Report abuse

"fedotenko of all people"

note to Tarik-- Fedotenko is a very consistent and solid hitter. Has been for about the last 5 years. Its one of the reasons he's been able to stay in the league and score the tough playoff goals, he's willing to grind it out. Its no surprise that he caught Fehr with that booming hit. He also was the only forward that I can remember who put big Jurcina flat on his butt with a hefty (clean) check unlike Avery.

Posted by: cstanton1 | August 5, 2009 12:02 PM | Report abuse

Way too early to give up or even talk about it. Bondra came to Caps in Oct 1990 for rookie season. He was 22. Didn't break out really until the partial season that ran Jan-Apr, 2005. He was 27.

I'm not saying Fehr is Bondra, but Fehr had some great WHL stats and you can't give up.

Posted by: tominfl1 | August 5, 2009 12:03 PM | Report abuse

and i'd agree, Fehr has potential still to not be a bust. Problem is, his skating needs to improve. He could get by with that choppy stride in the AHL. Up here by the time he's able to get to the front of the net, the play's already headed back the other way. He's always behind the play. I can't remember the last time he was able to catch upto the play in the offensive zone or go in on a forecheck even before his shoulder issues. And with 2 sore shoulders its going to take him a couple of months before he's comfortable playing his game along the boards.

Posted by: cstanton1 | August 5, 2009 12:04 PM | Report abuse

If the same doctor did Fehr shoulder that did Nyls, does that mean when he starts skating again he will skate in Circles? Sorry could not resist.

Posted by: RichC3 | August 5, 2009 10:56
Thanks, Rich! Now the whole office is wondering what's so funny on my WORK computer! :)

Posted by: tess2201 | August 5, 2009 12:13 PM | Report abuse

Fehr= hurt all the time = bust.
I have seen enough. He has issues more than he has ever played.
Time to move on.

Posted by: jotay131 | August 5, 2009 12:37 PM | Report abuse

I had surgery for a torn labrum in late April and it still hurts like heck. Can't even imagine having both shoulders done at the same time. Eric Fehr, you are one tough man that is all I can say.

Posted by: PhilR | August 5, 2009 12:38 PM | Report abuse

Can't say how people can say this guy is a bust. Last year was his first full year back from that back injury and now we find that he played the end of the season with one shoulder and still had a very decent year in my opinion. Give the guy a couple more seasons and he will be a consistent 20 goal plus guy I think.

Posted by: PhilR | August 5, 2009 12:45 PM | Report abuse

That should be "Can't see" before all the grammar police come out.

Posted by: PhilR | August 5, 2009 12:47 PM | Report abuse

note to self: use the word "turnbuckle" more often.

Posted by: jamebow | August 5, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

Tarik- I'm just wondering if you've heard anything about the Caps trying to clear up sal cap space so they can sign Zherdev.

Posted by: gocaps01 | August 5, 2009 1:04 PM | Report abuse

@gocaps01: I nearly peed myself laughing when I read that. Zherdev indeed. Thank you for the laugh.

Posted by: kittypawz | August 5, 2009 5:30 PM | Report abuse

Poor Fehr! Get well soon, Eric. He did well for us in February despite the injury. And a good Plus/Minus.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | August 5, 2009 5:54 PM | Report abuse

@Semvechkin & numero94

I'll admit I was married at 23 (but no kids for a VERY long time) but it seems that the people of Fehr's generation tend to marry later. My daughter is Fehr's age and still single and I tend to think of that as the norm.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | August 5, 2009 5:58 PM | Report abuse

with all the talent in hershey waiting to shine,i dont see fehr's future lookin very bright.he better come back with a vengence if he wants to stick around.but honestly i think his days are about done.give the next guy a chance.though i support whatever the caps do so whoevers in there...GO CAPS

Posted by: gratefuldid | August 5, 2009 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Fehr had to get married, and to a nurse, since he's hurt so much he can't take care of himself.

Posted by: ds_kelly | August 6, 2009 9:14 AM | Report abuse

We were pretty banged up as the pinz series went along.

Not excuses jsut reality.

Posted by: Rocc00 | August 6, 2009 9:16 AM | Report abuse

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