Theme: “Endurance is one of the most difficult disciplines, but it is to the one who endures that the final victory comes.”
It wasn’t supposed to be like this. Eric Fehr was on a steady rise through his apprenticeship after being selected 18th overall in the 2003 entry draft. In his last two years of junior hockey following his selection by the Caps, Fehr had seasons of 50 and 59 goals with Brandon in the Western Hockey League. He followed that up with a respectable 25 goals in 70 games in his first year as a pro at Hershey, then 22 goals in 40 games with the Bears the following season.
Then, in February 2007, Fehr came up lame. An injury that defied treatment and (at least for disclosure purposes) diagnosis kept Fehr on the shelf for the better part of a full year, interrupting what seemed like a steady march from juniors to the right side of the top line of the Caps. Eventually diagnosed (or disclosed) as a herniated disk, the injury threatened to delay significantly, if not completely derail Fehr’s future with the Caps. But he returned to the ice to play 11 games in Hershey and 23 with the Caps in 2007-2008. Those 23 games with the parent club were not especially noteworthy…* three games
…but his return to the ice was the key. He had to come back before he could succeed. There were, however, two games that might have given Caps fans a hint of things to come. The first was his eighth game back, on February 26th against Minnesota. It happened to be “deadline day,” and the story line that night had nothing to do with Eric Fehr (it was the Caps trading for a goalie and not trading the one they had). But Fehr had a goal and was on the ice for all four goals the Caps scored (finishing +4 for the night) in 11:58 of ice time in a 4-1 Caps win. Less than a week later, Fehr notched three assists in a 10-2 win over Boston in which he played 12:10.
Fehr will be turning 23 just about the time the Caps take the ice on the 2008-2009 season. If one looks at the 17 players selected ahead of Fehr in that 2003 draft, only the Rangers’ Hugh Jessiman has been more disappointing (for the same reasons, by and large – injuries). Except for Jessiman, who has yet to play in the NHL, Fehr has, by far, the fewest games played of the 18 players (48, compared to 112 for Montreal’s Andrei Kostitsyn). That is what the missing year has cost him.
Fehr is a restricted free agent, but it would seem unlikely that a healthy Fehr will be anywhere but in Washington next season. A goal scorer of his potential , who – absent injury – was on a steady upward climb to the NHL, doesn’t seem to be the sort of player the Caps will give up on. For both Fehr and the Caps, the quote from Buddha with respect to endurance seems relevant. The 2008-2009 season could be an important one in Fehr’s development and his future. But for his 2007-2008 season, the only result we can find in it is…