Griffins Lose Two: Athanasiou Injured And Backman To Sweden

Andreas Athanasiou is expected to miss 7 weeks with a broken jaw, and Mattias Backman is returning to Sweden.

Friday night we got word of a huge loss to the Griffins. Andreas Athanasiou has a broken jaw and is expected to miss at least 7 weeks. The injury occurred Friday December 12th against the Oklahoma City Barons. In the last 30 seconds of a Griffins 5-2 win, Mitch Moroz took his frustration out of Athanasiou by running him in the corner when AA was in a defenseless position and didn't know he was coming. Here's the video of the dirty hit.

I was at the game last night when Andreas Athanasiou was announced as a healthy scratch and my WTF meter instantly pegged. A frustration with the AHL is that there isn't really an injury disclosure policy, so anyone on the roster who's not playing is announced and listed as a healthy scratch, even if they're injured. However right before the game we found out that he had a broken jaw and would be out an "indefinite" amount of time. His injury was unexpected because he played the entire game the night after getting a broken jaw (Saturday December 13th against the Barons). As soon as I heard that he suffered a broken jaw, I knew exactly when it happened. I don't know why he played a game with a broken jaw, perhaps it wasn't broken from the hit but something happened in the game on the 13th that finished breaking it? Athanasiou is 4th on the Griffins in scoring with 16 points (7 goals and 9 assists) and has made a very smooth transition to the AHL from The OHL. Losing AA for that long is definitely a blow to the Griffins. Not only will they miss his production and creativity on the ice, but also the fact that he makes his line-mates better. I'm really going to miss watching him blaze up and down the ice, dance around defensemen, and use his creative genius to make fans ooh and aah.


Mattias Back(ToSweden)man

"I came here to play hockey and to develop and to someday make the NHL. That's my base goal. But if I'm not playing, I won't be able to get to a higher level.

The Griffins are also losing a young defenseman. Mattias Backman is returning to Sweden for what I presume is the rest of the season. We found out earlier in the week that he was (unsurprisingly) frustrated with being a healthy scratch for 7 games this season and not getting the playing time he needs in order to develop into an NHL player and was considering going back to play in Sweden. I also believe he's had a tough time being so far away from his family

"I play almost four years in Swedish league and played on national teams, so it's kind of weird you don't play here," Backman said. "In my opinion, the Swedish league is much better than here. But it's like different hockey, so it's hard to compare. You have to get used to the smaller rinks... I want to develop," he said. "I came here to play hockey and to develop and to someday make the NHL. That's my base goal. But if I'm not playing, I won't be able to get to a higher level. But I also know there are a lot of good players here, too ... We have a pretty good team and pretty good guys here."

I can't blame Backman for being frustrated with not playing, I've been frustrated by it myself. I understand that Blashill wants to have the veteran leadership in the game, but scratching prospects who need the playing time to grow and develop seems counterproductive. I don't know if there was some other reason for Backman being scratched instead of Brennan Evans or Nathan Paetsch, but with what I do know ti doesn't make any sense.

Backman has 2 years left of waiver exemption so I'm hoping that next year he'll come back and give it another go. Theoretically, Xavier Ouellet will be on Wings next season (he darn well should be) and Nick Jensen would have to clear waivers to be sent to Grand Rapids so there should be fewer defensemen competing for the ice time he needs to develop.

With their depth on defense, Mattias Backman isn't a game changer for the Griffins, but losing Athanasiou for such a log time is a much bigger loss. Get well soon AA, we'll all miss you.