Monday's news that Jordin Tootoo had entered the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse Program startled Nashville Predators fans who are already on edge over the numerous injuries which have felled leading forwards like Matthew Lombardi, David Legwand, Steve Sullivan, and Martin Erat. The response to Jordin's news has been unanimously supportive, and of course this opens up another interesting storyline on the roster front, with Chris Mueller inking an NHL contract and getting called up from Milwaukee on the double to join the Preds for last night's game against Dallas, then Marek Svatos getting claimed on waivers earlier today.
While the specifics of Tootoo's situation will remain private (as they should), we can look ahead to what this means for the Predators. Follow after the jump as we cover some of the details of the NHL's substance abuse program and review some other players who have gone through it in recent years, to get an idea of how long Tootoo's road back might be...
The NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse/Behavorial Health Program was launched in 1996, and the basic way the program works is that if a player voluntarily enters the program for the first time, he goes to Stage 1, which allows him to continue receiving his pay while undergoing treatment (the focus being on helping the player rather than punishing him). Continued violations, however, can cause things to escalate. As the Sun-Sentinel reported at the time:
The first time a player seeks treatment for drug or alcohol abuse, there is no penalty. If he were to suffer a relapse, he would be suspended without pay for the duration of his treatment. A second relapse would result in a six-month suspension without pay and a third would bring about a suspension without pay for one year with no guarantee of reinstatement.
The table below (which may not be complete, but should cover the vast majority of cases) lays out some guys who have gone through the program in recent years. The "NHL Return" date refers to either that player's first game back, or their date of reinstatement by the league:
|Player||Entry Date||NHL Return|
|Brian McGrattan||December 13, 2008||March 17, 2009|
|Mark Bell (stage 2)||September 4, 2007||November 6, 2007|
|Sandis Ozolinsh||December 29, 2005||Febraury 14, 2006|
|Sandis Ozolinsh (stage 2)||October 21, 2006|
|Claude Lapointe||December 4, 2003||February 3, 2004|
|Claude Lapointe (stage 2)||April 9, 2004||none|
|Theoren Fleury||February 28, 2001||September 4, 2001|
|Theoren Fleury (stage 2)||October 8, 2002||December 6, 2002|
|Theoren Fleury (stage 3)||April 11, 2003||September 10, 2009|
Bottom line? I think it's probably safe to assume that Tootoo will miss at least two months, which of course assumes that things proceed smoothly. Obviously, individual situations differ, but for me the scariest thing here is the frequency with which players move on to Stage 2. This is a battle which Jordin is just beginning, so for the present time, Preds fans just need to wish him the best, and not expect him back on the ice any time soon.
As David Boclair noted yesterday in the Nashville City Paper, the Preds have had two players go through this program before:
Tough guy Brantt Mhyres already was in the program when he was signed as a free agent in 2000. Mhyres spent just one season with the organization and appeared in 20 games for the Predators.
Likewise, rugged defenseman Jere Karalahti was a part of the program when he was acquired from Los Angeles in a trade for forward Cliff Ronning. Karalahti had a well-publicized history of drug use when he joined the Predators and appeared in 15 games late in 2001-02.
Following that season, Karalahti made a program-mandated visit to a counseling center and, upon his return to Nashville, engaged in activity, which earned him a six-month suspension and ultimately ended his NHL career.