DeCaro eyes comeback with Bugs
Rehab delay puts European options on hold
By Roy Lang III (courtesy of the Shreveport Times)
Injuries to goaltenders may have derailed the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs' run at a President's Cup in 2010, but one of the mishaps may have laid a solid foundation for the 2010-11 season.
John DeCaro, a two-time Central Hockey League Goaltender of the Year, ripped a groin muscle from the bone two games into the 2010 playoffs. He was originally scheduled to be cleared medically in July and would have then likely pursued his dream of playing in Europe. However, DeCaro's clearance has been pushed back to as late as October.
"It would be impossible to sign anywhere in Europe," DeCaro said. "I'm almost 100 percent coming back to Shreveport, which is OK with me considering what happened."
And clearly, it's OK with the Mudbugs, who lost CHL legend Ken Carroll due to retirement.
"I think this kid knows he has some unfinished business here," Mudbugs head coach Scott Muscutt said.
Carroll, who retired after 10 pro seasons (nine with the Mudbugs), is confident DeCaro can be the next legend between the pipes in teal and purple.
"Johnny DeCaro is a stand-up guy and a stand-up athlete. If he wants to spend the next six or seven years in Bossier-Shreveport, it's his," Carroll said. "Is he going to make other guys better that come through here? Absolutely.
"I hope he's taken what I've learned and passed on to him, and that's, 'put your best foot forward, you never know what tomorrow's going to bring.'"
The 2010 playoffs certainly spoke to that theory. DeCaro was hurt in Game 2 of the Northern Conference Semifinals against Colorado. Carroll suffered a season-ending injury in Game 1 of the Northern Conference Finals against Rapid City.
Muscutt believes the double dose of bad luck cost his team a Cup.
"That period that John DeCaro played before he got hurt, oh man," Muscutt said. "I was thinking, 'We could win a cup just based on this kid. Everybody jump on board, John DeCaro is going to carry the load.'
"The last time I felt that No. 34 (Carroll) was between the pipes."
Muscutt also knows that DeCaro won't settle for splitting the load any longer. He's prepared for DeCaro to be a clear-cut No. 1 netminder and mentor. DeCaro set CHL records for goals-against average (1.63), save percentage (.941) and shutouts (11) during the 2007-08 season.
"Johnny is ready to do that," Muscutt said. "Johnny has learned from the master and is prepared to jump in there and get a job done for us. He learned to elevate his game from what I saw in the Colorado series."
Muscutt already has a good idea of who DeCaro's partner may be.
"I won't release the kid's name just yet, but I looked at his numbers and Kenny Carroll's numbers and they are almost identical in both juniors and college. It's another CIS (Canadian Interuniversity) kid.
"He's very excited about coming down. It's cool how the cycle has evolved. The kid is very high in character and his coaches and teammates speak very highly of him. It could be the next Kenny, but now it's Johnny's turn to take the wheel and drive while the other fella rides in the wake."
So what about Parker Van Buskirk, the kid who was shipped in during the playoffs only to become the Mudbugs' hero for most of the Northern Conference Finals?
"When Parker left we were interested. He expressed interest in coming back to us, but you have to let some things unfold," Muscutt said. "He's in a holding pattern. We're not miles away from having Parker. Who knows, if John DeCaro is not ready for start, Parker might be ready. Or the other kid might be, too."
DeCaro posted a 24-14-2 for the Mudbugs last season, with a 2.73 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage. He just completed his second week of rehab for his injury.
"I'm taking it slow," he said. "I could be cleared earlier than October. They probably won't let me on the ice until July or August, but I would assume I'll be ready for first day of training camp."