Injuries upon injuries
November 29, 2016 | 8:20pm ET
As injuries pile up
across the NHL, where do certain teams stand?
By Hannah Spraker
ANAHEIM, CA -- I don't know what it is about 2016, but the injuries
just keep stacking up.
Injuries happen. It's part of the game, and every player will tell you
that. Although, for some reason, this year, the injuries seem to be
high caliber and in great multitude.
There are currently over 150 players on Injured Reserve or listed
day-to-day. Just to name a few:
Steven Stamkos (TB) - Torn Meniscus
Brad Richardson (AZ) - Broken Tibia/Fibula
Johnny Gaudreau (CGY) - Broken Finger
Eddie Lack (CAR) - Concussion
Mika Zibanejad (NYR) - broken fibula
Jonathan Quick (LA) - lower body
Taylor Hall (NJ) - Torn Meniscus
Then we have some serious IR:
Bryan Bickell (CAR) - diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis and will be
Craig Cunningham (AZ/AHL) - collapsed on ice and in stable but
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Bickell and Cunningham families
during this time.
Big names with big injuries, is it time to hit the panic button?
Well, it depends on the injury and it depends on the team, but it's
not even December, so hold off for just a bit.
The injury longevity for some of these players and teams could be
problematic. We all saw what happen last year in Montreal. Once Carey
Price was out, the team just could not seem to get it together. This
is the time where teams really start to show their depth.
While Price seemed to be Montreal's saving grace, that is more often
than not the exception and not the rule. Goaltending is a different
situation as teams need a reliable backup who can be a starter if need
American Thanksgiving was this last week -- the unofficial marker of
where we expect teams to be at the end of the season. So what is this
going to mean when these go-to guys are out for weeks at a time? Three
teams come to mind in terms of these injuries: Tampa Bay, Calagary and
Tampa Bay Lightning
When it comes to situations like Steven Stamkos, he is without a doubt
a phenomenal player. Anyone can see that. He was just placed on LTIR,
so he probably will not see much, if any of the regular season. Is he
replaceable? Probably not, but a team like Tampa Bay has the depth
available to survive without him, and contend for the Stanley Cup.
Tampa Bay does not lack talent to say the least. Players like Nikita
Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin, Alex Killorn,
create a strong core and prove that while Stamkos may be a secret
weapon, he is not their only weapon.
Here is where it gets interesting: If I am Lightning GM Steve Yzerman,
and I know Stamkos will miss most if not all of the regular season, I
am keeping him out until playoffs. Use that cap space while he is on
LTIR to stack to team a bit more of the blueline, then bring Stamkos
back in the playoffs when cap space does not matter. It's all about
Johnny Hockey is out with a broken finger which required surgery after
taking over 20 slashes in a game against Minnesota. While fans are
losing it over the fact that he took that many slashes in one game,
again, it is part of the game and Gaudreau told the media that exact
thing. You go into the game knowing these things happen.
He will spend six weeks recovering from surgery and rehabbing his
injury. What does this mean for Calgary? Well, the Flames are not off
to the greatest start to the season even with Gaudreau, and they just
lost their most dynamic and dangerous player for more than a month.
Sam Bennett has taken his place on the top line with Sean Monahan and
Troy Brouwer. Great players, they have some good talent, but losing a
player like Gaudreau is not going to be easy. Teams strategize to
limit his time on the puck because he shows how dangerous he is night
in and night out.
The underwhelming start to this 2016-17 season will be more of an
impact for Calgary. Even with their superstar, they cannot seem to get
it together. Needless to say this is not a Price situation -- they
were not killing it with Gaudreau and just now starting to drown. The
club as a whole has not been performing and now they are going to have
to show that they can swim without their star player.
This hockey club is still in a rebuilding stage, perhaps they are near
the tail end of it, but still rebuilding.
New Jersey Devils
Let's take a look at New Jersey. Golden child Taylor Hall is out with
knee issues (torn meniscus) for roughly 3-4 weeks. Hall was acquired
from Edmonton this past summer in a trade not many saw coming. He was
a favorite in Edmonton, and now a favorite in Jersey. Losing a dynamic
forward such as Hall definitely creates a gap in offense.
Scoring has suffered and the team lacks offensive depth and skill that
a player like Hall brings, relying more on grit and power than
finesse. Beau Bennett took his place on Jersey’s top line and has one
goal this season.
They have good players, but when a player like a Hall or Connor
McDavid comes in to start lighting it up for an otherwise
uncompetitive franchise, you have to wonder how long they can stay out
without it making too much of an impact.
Scoring needs to pick up and eyes go to players like Kyle Palmieri and
Calgary and Jersey are in similar positions, but there are two key
differences: goaltending and team record pre-injury.
Cory Schneider is arguably one of the best goaltenders in the NHL. He
has been solid between the pipes and a huge help to Jersey's hockey
club. He's a textbook goaltender. Where he needs to be, technically
sound and great at reading the play.
Brian Elliott is a fantastic goaltender, we saw this last season. The
problem is we are not seeing the same guy as we saw last season since
being traded to Calgary from St. Louis.
Time Heals All Wounds, Right?
This is not necessarily a death sentence for Calgary or New Jersey,
and this is not to say that Tampa Bay cannot fall out.
Look at Pittsburgh and Anaheim at this point last year --
underwhelming starts, both made the playoffs and the Penguins won the
Injury after injury, the IR's stack up coast to coast. The game is
changing and speed and finesse are the standard to be met. It's no
wonder that we're seeing more injuries when the whole pace of the game
has been sped up.
Hannah Spraker is the Anaheim Correspondent and a Columnist for The Fourth Period. Be sure to follow her on Twitter.