The Stanley Cup playoffs can be a crazy time of the year for everyone involved, but maybe none more so than each team’s training staff. Corey Masisak of Caps Extra chatted with Washington Capitals head athletic trainer Greg Smith about what his playoff experience is like.
Q: How much does your job change once the playoffs start? A: It can definitely be more with the time commitment. You expect it, because the games are basically every other day. We don’t have any days off or breaks, and you always seem to have injured guys every other day. We’re doing treatments prior to games, sometimes in hotel rooms, so we have to step up our operations. During the season you have the option of letting a guy rest, but during the playoffs that all changes.
Q: How much more do you have to do to help an injured player be ready? A: Normally, we might only do one treatment a day, but now it might be five or six. The urgency is there, plus we step up how we deal with issues more aggressively. If a guy has a fracture during the season, you put him in a cast for four-to-six weeks, but now we are trying to figure out how to get him in a protective device to be able to play.
Q: How do you decide if a guy can play, or if the injury is just too severe? A: What we do, whether it is the playoffs or not, is determine, ‘Can the injury get worse?’ That’s what you don’t ever want to have happen. If the injury is going to stay the same, then it might not heal as fast but you can play with it, then we might do some other things to help him be able to play, like with pain medication or maybe we try different devices when he’s not playing.
Q: Is it tough to tell guys they can’t go? A: It is pretty obvious. You try to exhaust all of your options and pull all of your tricks out of the bag to try and make it happen. At the end of the day, if the guy can’t be effective, it’s not really up for discussion. We’re trying to win hockey games.
Q: Any crazy stories about guys playing in the playoffs? A: In years past we’ve had guys with a broken foot that you’d take him out of a cast and right into the boot – didn’t practice, didn’t skate but give him pain medication and after he plays and showers the foot goes right back in the cast. That’s the norm. That’s the NHL playoffs.