Cam Atkinson will have neck surgery, and the Flyers are hoping to “get him right” for next season


VOORHEES, NJ – Cam Atkinson pushed and pushed and pushed.


In the end, he couldn’t get past the last hurdle.

As a result, the 33-year-old winger will undergo season-ending neck surgery Wednesday in Philadelphia. He has never appeared in a match this season.

The club expects Atkinson to make a full recovery.

“It hurts us,” General Manager Chuck Fletcher said Monday. “Arguably Cam was our best striker last year, and he played really well.

“It’s a tough situation for him. I feel for him. He’s been trying really hard for a few months to rehab – he’s worked with our people, he’s worked with a couple of people he’s worked with before in Columbus who’ve helped him in the past. Until last week, we thought he might be able to play against Rangers, but he couldn’t get over the hump.

“It’s become less focus on this year and more on let’s get him right, let’s keep him healthy for himself so he can come back and play.”

Atkinson’s injury has been a baffling and persistent injury since returning to training camp. Any neck and back problems come with the risk of being thrown up and down.

“He talked to different people through the process,” Fletcher said. “When he spoke with that last doctor, I think the doctor kind of made it clear that you might be able to come back and play if you keep going to rehab, but you have to look at the bigger picture here in terms of nerve irritation in your arm, if you want to get back to 100 per cent on Long term, you have to do it. I think that really resonates with Cam.”

Atkinson did not play in any of the Flyers’ six preseason games, but he was able to practice in most of the camp. The head coach was John Tortorella He expressed optimism about placing Atkinson in the regular season opener on October 13 in the days before it.

But things have clearly changed like Atkinson He took a step back from the ice in October and went for further evaluation.

In late November, Atkinson appeared to take an important turn toward a comeback. He was released to contact and He got it hard with Rasmus Restolainen in his first full training session.

“Just day in and day out for me now,” Dec. 3, after an optional morning ski, Atkinson said.

“It’s been pretty good. A little bit of adjusting, just problem solving. I’m getting close, but not enough in terms of where I think I can help this team right now. But I’m closer than not.”

The pilots believed the injury was more of a wear problem than a specific accident. After consulting with doctors, the decision for surgery ultimately came down to Atkinson and his representation.

He felt like he was coming, he was ready to go, he was even looking for a date [to return],” Tortorella said Monday. And then he has a bad day, which the hunchback won’t get over. And I can understand him trying to do everything he can without opening up, especially in this area. It’s easy to say he should have done it and this and that. It’s easy for strangers to say that.

“Cam wanted to play, he’s a great competitor, try all the different things with him [head athletic trainer Tommy Alva], the whole group is there, and he couldn’t take it to where he could get over the hump. It felt really good and then it would just come off.

“This has been discussed with the pros and they feel this is the best route. Cam has committed to them and will get it done.”

Joel Farabi He underwent surgery to replace the disc in the cervical region during late June. The 22-year-old winger has played in all 32 matches this season.

“Similar area, but I think there are some differences,” Fletcher said of Farabi’s surgery in comparison to Atkinson’s upcoming procedure. “We’ll know more after surgery, let the surgeon in there and then he’ll give us an update.”

Starting next season, Atkinson will have two years left on his seven-year, $41.125 million ($5.875 million USD) contract that he originally signed with the Blue Jackets. The Flyers traded Atkinson during the summer of 2021 in a deal that sent Jacob Voracik to Columbus. Atkinson became one of the leaders of the club. This season, he was expected to be an important buffer between his teammates and Tortorella Given his experience with the coach.

“Nobody wants to play more than Cam,” said Fletcher. “Especially with John, I think he was really looking forward to that, to help the team, we’re struggling a little bit and he’s power playing, he’s a penalty hitter, 5v5, really good defensively – he affects the game in a lot of different ways, so obviously he’s A very important part of our team.”

Monday’s Flyers went into a three-way tie for the second-fewest goals scored per game at 2.41.

In 2021-22, Atkinson scored 23 goals and 50 points. Had he not missed the final nine games of the season due to injury, he likely would have finished as the Flyers’ MVP and goal scorer.

The veteran winger scored 41 goals in the 2018-19 season with the Blue Jackets.

Credit to him for all the hard work he did to try and come back,” Owen Tippett said Monday. “Any time you have to have an operation and miss a big chunk of time, it’s not ideal and bad. But obviously it’s a huge loss for our team. The amount of attacking and leadership he brings, it could have gone a long way for the year. I hope he has a quick recovery for for him “.

With the Flyers at 10-15-7 and suffering another loss on Monday, this season has become more about the next season.

For Atkinson, his outlook has shifted entirely to next season.

“I think we did a good job of shielding him from himself at times because he was anxious to leave,” Fletcher said, “but I think our group set certain performance standards that he had to go through and exceed in order to play. He couldn’t meet all of them.

“That’s what makes Cam so successful is that he’s someone who beats the odds, who pushes forward and who competes and fights – who doesn’t want to give up.”

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