TORONTO â€” Ottawa Senators head coach Guy Boucher thought Clarke MacArthur would be joining his lineup this week for the first time all season.
Instead, MacArthur won’t play again this year, shut down by the Senators on Friday because of persistent concussion issues.
“He is my best friend in the game and when I heard that news it was very upsetting and from talking with him, I am not going to speak for him, but he is extremely disappointed,” Dion Phaneuf said on Saturday morning, ahead of a meeting with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
“He is a huge part of our team. It is a very tough situation and I just hope he can recover for him and his family.”
MacArthur missed all but four games last season because of a concussion and then suffered another one in training camp this past fall. The Lloydminster, Alta., native hasn’t gone into a game all year, but has been practising with the team since December. He was said to be feeling good and hoping to finally suit up for the first time since Oct. 14, 2015 when he suffered his second concussion in a matter of weeks during a game against Columbus.
In all, MacArthur was diagnosed with four concussions over 18 months with Ottawa. Joining the Senators by way of free agency after the 2012-13 season, MacArthur was a popular player and leader in the Ottawa dressing room.
“To see how hard he’s worked over the past how many months, coming to the rink every day, bag-skating, working out and just keeping his spirits up and being in a good mood and being a great teammate and to hear that it was tough,” said Zack Smith. “I can’t imagine how he’s feeling right now.”
“The reality is I was told last summer ‘If we lose MacArthur again we’re not making these playoffs’,” added Boucher, who was hired as coach in May. “But then there was a hope of him coming back and the hope was there until last week. I thought he was back this week. He was looking great, had no symptoms; he wanted to play and after taking the tests, some of the baseline tests weren’t up to par and it was devastating for him. It was devastating for us.”
“But now we’ve got to move on and the reality is we’ve done without him with the hope. Now we’re going to do without him without any hope that he’ll be back this year.”
Senators general manager Pierre Dorion said the decision to shut the 31-year-old down was made after extensive consultation with doctors. He said MacArthur was “devastated” by the news, feeling that he was symptom-free.
“I think that he’s been handling the situation as good as you possibly can,” captain Erik Karlsson said of MacArthur’s pursuit to return. “He’s been a real pro throughout the whole process of the season and when he’s been around practising with the team he looks good, he feels good and that’s the most important part. Unfortunately he won’t be able to play for another few months. That’s the situation we’re in right now.”
MacArthur scored a career-high 24 goals in his first season with Ottawa, signing a five-year extension worth US$23.25 million with the club (the deal started in 2015) that summer.
Boucher said it would be up to MacArthur whether or not he wanted to be around the team for the remainder of the season, Ottawa currently holding a playoff spot in the Atlantic division ahead of the tilt with Toronto.
“Our call is very easy,” Boucher said. “He’s such an integral part of this team in every way. The players love him. He’s not just a great leader, he’s a funny guy, he’s a respectful person â€” everything you hope to have on your team. To have the presence around would be great, but I think there’ll be no pressure for him to be around.”
Jonas Siegel, The Canadian Press