Nashville Predators forward Austin Watson has been placed in Stage Two of the league’s Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program, and will be suspended indefinitely. The placement is “related exclusively to his ongoing issues with alcohol abuse.” The Predators have released a statement:
The Nashville Predators are saddened and disappointed for Austin Watson and his family as he enters the NHL/NHLPA Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program for alcohol-related treatment. We are grateful for the NHL and NHLPA’s program and will cooperate in any way necessary as we continue to support Austin and his family as they go through this difficult time. Because of the personal nature of the Substance Abuse and Behavioral Health Program and our exclusive focus on Austin and his family’s well-being, there will be no further comment on this matter.
Watson already served an 18-game suspension earlier this season for a domestic violence arrest in the summer, one that was reduced from an original sentence of 27 games by a neutral arbitrator. It’s not apparent what has happened to force this second suspension, but the Predators are instantly without one of their most versatile forwards for the time being and perhaps the rest of the season.
After returning to the lineup on November 15th, Watson had collected seven goals and 13 points in 34 games while playing the most minutes of his short career. The big, physical forward had already collected 99 hits in those 34 games, which actually leads the Predators entire roster despite the missed time from suspension. For a team that is loading up for another long playoff run, losing a player of his nature is a tough blow.
It’s hard to know exactly what the outcome will be in this siutation. Joe Rexrode of the Tennessean believes that this is the end of Watson’s career in Nashville, and tells readers to simply root for the 27-year old’s survival at this point. Watson has one year remaining on his contract after this season, but there is no guarantee he ever suits up again for the Predators. For now, the team will support him and his family as they try to battle through the alcohol issues.