The Vegas Golden Knights will be without captain Mark Stone indefinitely due to another back surgery. But that doesn't mean Stone can't continue to make an impact on the team off the ice. He's not going anywhere, except, to injured reserve for an extended period of time.
Another unfortunate back injury doesn't change the leader that Stone is and the impact he can still have on the Golden Knights. As we enter the stretch run to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Stone's voice will still be present in the Golden Knights team.
"It's not like this is any player. He's our captain and he's our leader, so he's still the guy that runs a lot of stuff off the ice. He's still a leader and obviously will be involved in any team stuff you get to be around… I'm not too worried about it. He's a guy that likes to be around," said forward Jonathan Marchessault.
Stone had back surgery on Jan. 31st after he was absent for eight VGK games, where they went 1-5-2. In the first half of 2022-23, Stone scored 38 points in 43 games and was on track to re-establish himself as a premier two-way winger in the National Hockey League.
This resurgence came after a rough 2021-22 season where Stone played just 37 games, also due to back injuries. While Stone had similar surgery last season, it appears as if the goal is for him to be more hands-on in his recovery process.
"I think last year he wasn't around because of the parameters of the surgery he had. This year he's here rehabbing and I think it's important for him to touch the guys when he can and when he's. There's just a lot of respect there whether it's messaging on the ice or your ship off the ice. We have other guys who have been there and led. But still just making sure he's present I think guys will appreciate it," said head coach Bruce Cassidy.
Having extra motivation and people to play for has helped the Golden Knights in the past as they have won big matchup games this season such as the Anabelle Hanson game, Bruce Cassidy return game, and in Phil Kessel milestone games. Even though he can't play, having Stone be around the team in community events, for the team's Super Bowl party, and having him show his face at morning skates, is an added motivation booster.
"You still see all the guys around. Stoner (Mark Stone) is around. When I was injured I was walking around and getting treatment, or eating when guys are coming in for shelter day and stuff like that. So you always stop and talk with guys to make sure you guys are doing all right. I think most importantly, just being able to joke around with guys when guys are getting ready for practice," said Zach Whitecloud.
Isolation is something that injured players have to deal with on top of their already existing injuries.
"It's tough, right? You're not around the regular schedule when guys are going into meetings, workouts, skates, and then going on the road, right? You got to try and get together with the guys when they are here and take some time to see guys when they are here playing games," said Whitecloud, who is just coming off missing 21 games with a leg injury.
With Daniil Miromanov as the only other injured Golden Knights player, and the VGK already having a healthy defense, Stone could be the only player on IR for the VGK asides from the obvious Shea Weber, Nolan Patrick, and Robin Lehner trio.
"Usually, there's, you know a couple of guys hurt, right? So you can have your group and you're on your own schedule and stuff. Our staff does a great job of taking care of us making sure we're ready to go and making sure we're healthy," said Whitecloud.
But the game plan for the VGK this season looks to be to incorporate Stone as much as possible and for good reason. He's the biggest part of their team and without him, the Golden Knights could be in danger of missing the playoffs for the second straight season. So having him around, even while injured, is key.
Stone is the captain of the Golden Knights. But he's not the only player on the team that has been a captain before as both Alex Pietrangelo and Jack Eichel are on the team. For the VGK to be successful with Stone out of the lineup, everyone will need to contribute, especially the remaining leaders on the team.