This was unfiltered and raw, the type of real emotion you can only exude under the circumstances Andrew Copp finds himself dealing with.
The Winnipeg Jets forward has been on an emotional roller-coaster during the past several days, awaiting the results of a concussion test after being on the receiving end of a hird-period high check from St. Louis Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist that knocked him out of the game on Sunday.
Given his injury history and with his fourth documented concussion occurring just last month after taking a high check from Minnesota Wild winger Jordan Greenway, it was natural for Copp to be thinking the worst as he briefly lay on the ice.
The frustration was evident as Copp tossed his helmet violently while making his way down the tunnel to the Jets dressing room.
“Right after the hit, I was definitely pretty shaken,” said Copp, who is expected to return to the Jets lineup on Friday against the Boston Bruins. “I think you kind of saw when I was on the ground, I was starting to think the worst and then, you kind of see me get up and I thought to myself ‘I actually feel OK.’”
Circumstances being what they were, the decision was made for Copp to delay taking his baseline test until Tuesday – he passed.
“I was really happy that there haven’t really been any symptoms and there haven’t been any concerns,” said Copp. “We were just being very cautious and obviously, with the amount of time between the two hits, we wanted to be careful with that and not put myself in a situation to get hit again. The last few days have been pretty good. I would say I was pretty shaken just taking the hit though.
“So I think that was in my mind for a few days and made me hesitant, I guess. But I got a good workout in while they were playing the game on Tuesday and then I’ve felt pretty good on the ice the last couple of days. We’ll see where (Friday) takes us. But I’m really happy that there’s no concussion and the thing that I’m trying to take out of it is that I can take a hit like that and my head is not as fragile as maybe I feared when I first got hit and I feel good after it. That’s promising and honestly gives me a little confidence for when I come back.”
Physically Copp is feeling fine but he admits that waiting to find out whether or not he had suffered another concussion was mentally taxing.
“I don’t know if it’s that I’m a good test taker or what, but I’ve never actually failed a test after. That’s where precaution and history and all of those things have to really come into play, basically just how I feel,” said Copp. “And it’s hard to think about how you’re feeling the entire day. How am I feeling? And asking that question to yourself 100 times a day. Oh, I feel pressure in my head for three seconds, is that a symptom? Oh no, it just went away. Am I OK? A lot of that type of thinking, but it’s gotten a lot better the last few days just from what I’ve talked about, the confidence of taking a hit like that and not being concussed.”
Copp was also on the receiving end of a big body check last Thursday against the New Jersey Devils, but he was able to shake that one off as well.
That’s definitely encouraging, but it also puts Copp on alert.
“At the same time, there are hits that I should see these guys coming also. Kind of just trying to walk that line a little bit,” said Copp. “I think honestly the biggest thing is just the span of time between the last one and this hit. If this was a year from now, I don’t think it would be as big of a deal. But just the portion of time between hits is the real question mark.”
Now that he’s escaped serious injury, you would think Copp has a good reason to exhale – and he most certainly does, to a degree – but he’s also been prevalent in the rumour mill when it comes to Monday’s NHL trade deadline.
As a versatile and valuable player on an expiring contract, Copp has been a guy that numerous teams are calling about, taking the temperature on what it’s going to take to potentially pry him out of Winnipeg.
It’s easy to say just try and block out the noise that comes in the situation, but for Copp, it was clear the uncertainty of his future is somewhat unsettling – as he was interested in signing a long-term deal with the Jets last summer before eventually settling on a one-year deal for a modest raise that essentially walks him right into unrestricted free agency for the first time in his career.
“At the end of last year, I was looking at houses around here, and I was preparing to sign a long-term deal, and with the acquisitions that were made turned out to not be given an opportunity for me to do that,” said Copp. “So at that point, I kind of knew it was going to be one more year and see what happens. Didn’t envision that I’d be moved at the deadline. I envisioned us being in a playoff spot and envisioned us adding to our team. But circumstances are what they are, and I just want to enjoy the time here while I have it and try and enjoy an opportunity.”
As someone who went to arbitration and has been involved in some intense contract talks, Copp understood there was always a chance this could be his final season with the Jets. But he’s invested plenty of sweat equity since being chosen in the fourth round of the 2013 NHL Draft and felt he would be able to enjoy a playoff run before deciding whether to stick around or to test the free-agent waters.
With the Jets currently sitting two points out of the playoffs in the Western Conference, the situation is a bit murky and it’s unclear if the organization is going to be comfortable standing pat or if it decides to make a couple of trades to try and retool on the fly instead.
“There’s times where it looked like we were out of the race and kind of now right back in it, so there’s a lot of unknowns,” said Copp. “It’s definitely been a little bit of a weird time. Anxious, a little bit. Just kind of ‘see what happens.’ And then, obviously, you want to win. So there’s a lot of that that goes on, and maybe it’s even more pressure to win, because I’ve been here for so long you kind of want to have a chance with this group. But at the same time, when you feel like you’re out of it you also want to have a chance to go and win. So … highs and lows, and just trying to stay as even-keel as possible.
“But it’s really hard when you don’t know where, and one phone call feels like it could be, ‘OK, you’re changing countries,’ all that kind of stuff. Just trying to enjoy the present. I’ve been here for a long time and have a lot of close friends on this team, so just trying to spend a lot of time with them over the next four days and if I get a couple more months or whatever after that, then great. And if not, then try and enjoy my time here while I can.”
Given a 6-2-1 stretch, it’s possible that Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff decides to hold onto Copp and Paul Stastny, who shared the podium on Thursday.
Stastny also had a reflective tone to his answers and that was no surprise, given the perspective he has, not only as a guy who has suited up in more than 1,000 games but someone who has been on the move around the deadline – like he was in 2018 when he joined the Jets for a run to the Western Conference final.
“If you’re wanted, it’s always good. You want to be wanted,” said Stastny, who has 17 goals and 31 points in 50 games this season. “I think early on in my career, you were scared of things like this, but then you realize that teams want you, they see something in you, they value something so that’s a positive if you get traded.
“But at the same time, now being older I kind of just enjoy the situation in the present and if something happens, something happens. Kind of out of my control, but at the same time you also worry about what we’re doing as a team here. When we got (Copp) back, when we got (Nikolaj) Ehlers back, we’re a whole different team. I can see we’re building something good, but at the same time, if you lose two games in a row, things change quick. So, for us, we don’t have a lot of room for error. When the situation arrives in four days, whatever happens, happens. There’s a lot of outside noise, so you can’t control much.
“It’s just part of the business and you just got to with it and enjoy the process.”
Much like the players who spoke on the subject on Thursday afternoon, you can be sure that Jets interim head coach Dave Lowry will be feeling a sense of relief when the deadline passes on Monday.
“You’ll know what your line-up is for sure,” said Lowry. “The big thing going through it as a player, there is uncertainty. It’s not only the trade deadline, it’s a business up until the trade deadline. You can be traded at any time. It can be unsettling. We all know going in that this is what we’ve signed up for. This is one of the tough parts of the business.
“It’s going to affect every individual differently. There are more names, some guys’ names are tied to more moves than others. A lot of guys know going in where they are in terms of contracts and that this could be a possibility. You just learn to deal with it.”