James McEwan started the season and ended the season on injured reserve. Such is life for an ECHL tough guy.
But between the time he got back from off-season wrist surgery, and was lost to a torn rotator cuff (which will require surgery, scheduled for next Thursday), McEwan often showed what makes him an effective, attractive commodity at the ECHL level. He led the team in penalty minutes (146) in only 36 games, exactly half the season. The third-year pro also chipped in with two goals, two assists and a minus-5 rating.
He wasn’t ready to commit to a plan for next season, beyond being healthy in time for training camp. Here’s what else McEwan had to say today:
What’s the rehab schedule after your surgery?
Rehab is six weeks. Depending on how the surgery goes, how big the tear is, it’s how my body reacts to it. iI’s kind of up in the air. They say about three months before I can start training and stuff again. I’ll have a better idea afterward. I’m just going in with a positive attitude.
Is your goal to be healthy in time for camp?
I want to be back and get ready to go for October. That’s when I want to be better. That’s what I’m going to shoot for. If I can be better before then, that would be great. My body will be the best judge if I’m ready to go.
How do you feel the season went for you after joining the team in December?
It took me a couple games to get going. I felt good, then I started getting back into my groove. My fights were going good. I was making good hits, bringing good energy on the ice. All in all, before my rotator cuff started bothering me, I was getting good in every game, feeling confident. Personally I thought it was getting better and better.
When did you sustain the initial injury?
I think I did it in January. It’s just kind of gotten worse and worse. The last month it was really sore. The last fight [March 30 against Bakersfield's Erick Lizon] topped it off when I fell on it. that’s why I took the last two games off. It was really sore after that. I didn’t want to hurt it any more than I already did.
Which fight caused the initial injury, and can you do anything as a hockey player to prevent injuring your shoulder in fights?
I don’t think my shoulder was injured in a fight. I think it was battling in a corner. I’m pretty sure it didn’t happen in a fight. My whole career I’ve been lucky. I’ve never really had any injuries except the past few years, I’ve had some big ones. I train hard to prepare myself. I have great trainers back home. I train like a mad dog in the summer. I get my body in the best possible shape, but it’s unpredictable. You can go years without injuries. Especially my style, there’s fighting, hitting, there’s a lot of grinding in the corners. That just multiplies my chances of getting injured. It’s part of the game. I wouldn’t say I’m less prepared. If not, I say I’m more prepared than a lot of guys. It’s just kind of how the cards are dealt right now.
Why do you think it took so long for the team to get going?
It was a lot of factors. It’s hard to say. I thought we really came together when we saw how close we were to making the playoffs. Guys were playing in that zone. There was definitely something going on where guys were coming together and playing. Guys felt comfortable doing what they do best, playing their role.
You stayed after practice as much as anyone working with (assistant coach) Craig Johnson. Did you see the benefits of that extra work?
Oh yeah. Craig Johnson is awesome. He’s awesome. He’s been there. He’s done it, he’s gone through everything. He’s one guy who really didn’t get any credit but he helped out a lot. He helped my game personally a ton. A lot of guys would probably say that to you. Having him there, his knowledge — he was there to help guys. You asked him for anything, for shots, he was there. He knows little tricks of the trade. He’s a really smart hockey guy.
Was this season a conscious effort to become a more well-rounded hockey player?
I worked on my skills after every practice. I believe if you have a weakness you have to put work in to address it. As a result I felt better. People noticed. Some things aren’t my strengths. It’s better if you work on (those things) rather than pretending they’re not.
Where do you see yourself next season?
I’m just focused on getting healthy right now. I haven’t really thought about it. The door’s not closed on anything, but I’m just taking a break on thinking about it, giving my head a little rest on everything. I’ll re-group, gather my thoughts, then make an educated decision.