Concussion-prone Mueller grateful to Panthers for chance
"My goal just coming into the season was play 48 games," Mueller said Saturday. "If I could do that and play hard each and every shift, help my team, I'll be happy."
Usually, it's fourth-liners fighting to stay out of healthy scratch territory, not former first-round picks who are just happy to be here seven years after being drafted.
And Mueller was such a hot prospect, the Upper Deck trading card company put him on the boxes of its SPx cards, an upper middle-class release for hockey card collectors. For comparison, Ottawa's Jason Spezza and the Islanders John Tavares graced SPx boxes early in their NHL careers.
But you gain a different perspective on NHL life when the most nebulous and scary of injuries, the concussion, has cost you 140 games in a promising NHL career.
"Absolutely," Mueller said. "It's been a tough go the last year and a half. For Florida to take a chance on me and play me regularly every night, I'm thankful for that."
The bulk of that 140 came in the entire 2010-11 season (82 games) and the first half of last season. Injuries not involving Mueller's head cost him another seven games last season. Colorado didn't bother to re-sign him. The Panthers took a one-year, $1.725 million shot.