This was a season that Michael Bournival will quickly want to forget, as the dreaded spectre of ongoing concussion issues, first sustained last season, continued to haunt Bournival into this season.
On July 14th he signed a one-year, two-way extension with the Montreal Canadiens on the heels of a season that ended early as a result of a concussion, which was made worse by the failure to treat it immediately.
Bournival would suffer from vertigo and dizzy spells, all consistent with post-concussion symptoms, but fearing losing his spot in the Habs line-up, he failed to report the condition. As his play deteriorated he eventually ended up in Hamilton, and then when he finally reported the condition in February, he was shut down for the season so that he could be properly treated.
At first it appeared as though he responded positively to the treatments as he was given the all-clear in mid-June according to his agent Christian Daigle. In an interview with the Journal de Montreal in August where Bournival claimed himself free of any lingering symptoms, and things looked up for his healthy return when the new season began.
"At first I took my time. When I started to feel the symptoms I would put on the brakes. Now I have no more issues. I've forgotten all about my concussion. I don't feel any after-effects and I don't really want to think about it any more. I want to just erase the last season and start from scratch."
However when he arrived to training camp, things took a turn for the worst. He failed his neurological testing, and was diagnosed with post-concussion symptoms, despite his claims to the contrary.
M.Bournival was able to participate in some physical testing on Wed, but failed his neurological exam.Out indefinitely with post-concussion.— Eric Engels (@EricEngels) September 19, 2015
This was obviously a major blow to the player who had to sit helpless and watch other players pass him on the depth chart, while he tried to calmly deal with an issue that could very well be career threatening if he wasn't careful.
Within a month as the regular season began, he slowly started skating with a tinted visor, gently going through some dizzying exercises that tested his recuperation.
Source: Michael Bournival concussion symptoms are gone. Has skated. A question of time before he can start pushing and training with team.— Louis Jean (@LouisJean_TVA) October 8, 2015
He gradually increased his exertion levels, until he was taking part in full team practices by the end of November. On December 2nd he was placed on waivers by the Canadiens, and going unclaimed, he was assigned to the IceCaps of St. John's to begin a slow return to game form.
On December 11th he made his return, almost a full 10 months since his last game. He immediately got first line duties on left wing of Michael McCarron, but eventually settled onto a veteran line with Gabriel Dumont and Max Friberg.
Over 20 games with the IceCaps, wearing an A on his jersey, Bournival scored one goal and added seven assists. One the biggest improvements in his game was putting pucks on the net. He was shutout only twice in that category. He registered one game with nine shots on net. He seemed to be playing well enough to earn a recall back to the Canadiens as they dealt with several injury issues. But then...
Paul Thompson with an absolutely disgusting move, slamming Michael Bournival's head into the ice. Absolutely disgusting.— Mitch Brown (@MitchLBrown) January 23, 2016
Bournival would only play two more games after this, before being scratched repeatedly for weeks. No official report was coming out from the Canadiens or the IceCaps, but fans began to fear the worst. Despite some reports emerging that he was injured, but nothing related to post-concussion symptoms, his season officially ended prematurely yet again as the IceCaps announced that he was indeed suffering from post-concussion symptoms and would be out indefinitely.
When La Nouvelliste interviewed Montreal Canadiens General Manager Marc Bergevin in early March, Bergevin indicated that these injuries definitely have a cumulative detrimental effect on his development as a hockey player and probably make his road back to the NHL that much harder.
At his age to miss almost a year and a half, that's huge for his development. He is going to need time. It's unfortunate for him as he's a good kid. A hard working local kid who we really like.
He now enters a period of double uncertainty as he will be seeking a new contract come July 1st as a Restricted Free Agent from the Canadiens, while simultaneously dealing with his second major concussion in a single calendar year.
If he can recover from the concussion he would be a useful asset with the IceCaps, as he has now played 193 games of professional hockey in the NHL and AHL, and as a 24-year old, would provide the experience and leadership that the IceCaps will need with the potential departure of Captain Gabriel Dumont.
Whether he will be able to find his place back in the NHL however will probably require a bit of luck, as the ranks of the Canadiens are filling up with prospects like Daniel Carr, Lucas Lessio, and Stefan Matteau competing for that fourth line left wing spot.
First and foremost, Bournival should take care of his health.
Concussions have robbed many players of their careers. Names such as Marc Savard, Ian Laperriere, and Chris Pronger all had their careers cut short due to a severe concussion. However there have also been plenty examples of players, such as Magnus Nygren, returning to action from a concussion. Hopefully Bournival can add his name to the list of players who have made full recoveries as early as next season.