NHL Games Missed Due To Injury Since The Lockout

Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009 10:59AM

Injuries are a fact of life in professional hockey. It’s a contact sport played at the highest speeds, and pain is an inevitable consequence. That said, some players are more at risk (due to chronic problems, poor hockey sense, age and other factors) than most, and teams like the Oilers need to know which of their key players are at an elevated risk of injury.

With that in mind, I’ve tallied up the games missed by Oilers’ players since the NHL lockout (note: all injury information courtesy of Sportsnet) to give us an idea of who might be at a particularly high risk of getting hurt. Obviously, this list tends to favour young players and callups, who have played fewer NHL games, and doesn’t include injuries sufffered in the minors or in junior.

More Than 50 Games Missed

  • Ethan Moreau: 147 (shoulder, eye, groin and multiple leg injuries)
  • Fernando Pisani: 77 (ulcerative colitis, concussion, leg and back injury)
  • Nikolai Khabibulin: 66 (back spasms, knee, groin, finger and multiple lower body injuries)
  • Sheldon Souray: 65 (wrist, knee, foot, and multiple groin and shoulder injuries)

These are the four players at greatest risk of suffering another injury, and unfortunately all play key roles for the Oilers. Ethan Moreau has had incredibly bad luck since the lockout, but despite leading the team in games missed most of the problems aren’t chronic. The greatest concern here are his shoulders, which wiped out one season and have been injured on multiple occasions prior.

Sheldon Souray’s been plagued by multiple chronic injuries, but the wrist injuries which have so heavily impacted his career haven’t been a major problem in recent years. Fernando Pisani, meanwhile, has been relatively healthy aside from his colitis, which is going to be a risk every season.

Lastly, the Oilers newly acquired number one goaltender, 36-year old Nikolai Khabibulin, has suffered repeated lower body injuries which have caused him to miss an average of 16-17 games per season. While this is serious, the greater concern is that given his age, history and the position he plays, he may be at a relatively high risk of suffering a long-term injury.

20 to 50 Games Missed

  • Lubomir Visnovsky: 47 (ankle, back, lower body and multiple shoulder injuries)
  • Gilbert Brule: 39 (broken leg, sternal clavicular strain, inflamed tonsils)
  • Ales Hemsky: 37 (concussion, multiple shoulder and knee injuries)
  • Shawn Horcoff: 36 (knee, leg, shoulder injury)
  • J-F Jacques: 30 (back surgery)
  • Steve MacIntyre: 26 (orbital fracture)
  • Ladislav Smid: 24 (broken hand, concussion, knee, shoulder, leg and head injury)
  • Steve Staios: 24 (multiple knee injuries)
  • Marc Pouliot: 23 (mononucleosis, concussion)

There are some concerns here. Most of the players towards the bottom of the list are relatively healthy with the exception of one major problem, although Smid and Staios have managed to get here through a combination of smaller problems – Staios with his knees and Smid because he takes big hits all of the time. The top three players here are the ones that are really worth being concerned about. All are smaller players, and all play a high-risk game: in the cases of Hemsky and Visnovsky because they always have the puck, and in Brule’s case because of the physical style he plays. I’d say that all three are significant injury risks, while the other players on this list have been relatively durable. Staios and Smid (mentioned above) are probably near the top of the group because of age and penchant for taking big hits, respectively.

It’s also worth noting that both Jacques and Pouliot have had their careers significantly impacted by injury at the minor-league and junior levels, and should also be considered as relatively high injury risks.

1 to 20 Games Missed

  • Tom Gilbert: 13 (head injury)
  • Denis Grebeshkov: 10 (ankle injury, concussion)
  • Robert Nilsson: 9 (concussion, upper body injury)
  • Zack Stortini: 6 (strained left knee)
  • Sam Gagner: 6 (concussion, ankle injury)
  • Liam Reddox: 2 (upper body injury)
  • Jason Strudwick: 2 (shoulder injury)

These players have all been relatively healthy to date. There’s a frightening number of concussions in this group, but other than that there isn’t too much cause for concern.

No Games Missed

  • Theo Peckham: 16 NHL games without injury
  • Andrew Cogliano: 164 NHL games without injury
  • Patrick O’Sullivan: 207 NHL games without injury
  • Dustin Penner: 261 NHL games without injury

Dustin Penner has been incredibly durable, and while he doesn’t play a high-impact physical game he isn’t a perimeter player either so this deserves acknowledgement. Either he has a pretty significant pain threshold, incredibly good luck, or his size combined with hockey sense gets him out of danger. I’d guess it’s a combination of all of those factors.

O’Sullivan and Cogliano are both small players, but hockey sense undoubtedly helps in both cases, combined with good (O’Sullivan) and incredible (Cogliano) skating ability. Theo Peckham meanwhile simply hasn’t played enough NHL games for us to form any conclusions.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 11:12AM
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BTW, Khabibulin's ranking on this list means we can expect at least 25 games out of JDD - probably closer to 30.

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#2 Librarian Mike
July 12 2009, 11:15AM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

I hope JDD is ready for his close-up.

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#3 Death Metal Nightmare
July 12 2009, 11:27AM
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Dustin Penner: 261 NHL games without injury

play soft, then you get to hangout every game. :D

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#4 roadrunner
July 12 2009, 11:30AM
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Do you think in the group 3 injury agents category, most of the concussions stem from those players being smaller? When they're parallel to the boards and they're checked, their heads are caught between the checkers shoulder and the glass/boards. Do you think there is a direct relation to the size and type of injury? Obviously this always isnt the case as hits are thorwn in a variety of fashions all over the ice but it's a simple analogy.

However, I can't remember the exact nature of Grebeshkovs concussion so he might not fit into my little scenerio.

Thoughts?

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#5 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 11:32AM
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@ roadrunner:

It wouldn't surprise me in the least if size had a lot to do with concussions; it's also worth noting that most concussion-prone players are guys who rag on the puck a lot.

Small and puck-carrying is not a recipe for a healthy head in the NHL.

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#6 JF
July 12 2009, 11:34AM
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@ roadrunner: I personally had 3 hockey concussions within a year, but I'm 6'4". Sure its different, but just thought I'd add it to the discussion

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#7 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 11:39AM
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JF wrote:

@ roadrunner: I personally had 3 hockey concussions within a year, but I’m 6′4″. Sure its different, but just thought I’d add it to the discussion

Lindros-style concussions? I can't imagine there's many guys big enough to hit your head with their shoulder.

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#8 JF
July 12 2009, 11:43AM
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@ Jonathan Willis: Yeah, none of them were the result of hits to the head along the boards. More getting helmets to the jaw or getting tripped and hitting the boards head-first.

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#9 oilitsinyoutogive
July 12 2009, 12:01PM
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Hey just wanted to say thanks for this, this is the stuff i come to the nation for.

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#10 roadrunner
July 12 2009, 12:02PM
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Thanks guys but I was only making reference to the Oiler players JW had mentioned. I too had a single concussion playing rugby of all things and smacked the back of my head on the grass. It was mild but wow does it scare the crap out of you when you can't remember a thing instantly.

Good point on the "raggers" of the puck. They get caught as they turn up ice or when they look up(Lindros). JW do you really think Khabi is due for an injury this year? He was injury free last year and yes he's older but I'm inclined to think he might have a bit of eagerness and jump to his game this year for the first 1/4 of the season because of the change in scenery. If he plays well, that confidence might carry him through the full year hopefully.

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#11 oilitsinyoutogive
July 12 2009, 12:06PM
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i think that even if Khabi is healthy here, were still going to see JDD get alot more starts, even if its just to see if hes got the potential to take over at an NHL level.

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#12 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 12:07PM
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JF wrote:

@ Jonathan Willis: Yeah, none of them were the result of hits to the head along the boards. More getting helmets to the jaw or getting tripped and hitting the boards head-first.

Gotcha. That last play is always a scary one.

A couple of years ago I was charging past the net to chase a loose puck right behind it. I had an opponenet chasing me (big guy - I'm 5/10, Dave's right around 6'2) and I was only a step ahead of him. Anyways, I'd been in the crease a little earlier in the game, and the goaltender had given me a couple of whacks for it. As I skated past the net the goalie stuck out a stick, and I tripped on it and started falling towards the boards with the puck right in front of me.

Thank god Dave decided not to finish the check. I would have been in serious trouble.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 12:09PM
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roadrunner wrote:

JW do you really think Khabi is due for an injury this year? He was injury free last year and yes he’s older but I’m inclined to think he might have a bit of eagerness and jump to his game this year for the first 1/4 of the season because of the change in scenery.

Khabibulin missed twenty games last season, all listed as "lower body injury".

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#14 JF
July 12 2009, 12:11PM
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@ Jonathan Willis: That sounds similar to my first one, I played defense but managed a breakaway on a bad line change, and got a stick between my legs and then got hit while off balance. Hit the ice head first and the boards right after. Its scary stuff

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#15 Archaeologuy
July 12 2009, 12:13PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I can’t imagine there’s many guys big enough to hit your head with their shoulder.

It's important to remember that the head doesnt even have to be hit in order to get a concussion. Any whiplash-like effect can cause a concussion. So even giving a big hit can be dangerous for people who are prone to getting them.

It is frightening to see so many guys missing games due to concussion but it probably isnt any different for other clubs because as a whole we respect head injuries so much more now than ever before. I'm sure if this were 20 years ago the guys in Gagner's category wouldnt have missed more than a game or two and it would have been called the flu.

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#16 spOILer
July 12 2009, 12:14PM
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And then there's just luck, both good and bad.

Myself, for predicting injuries, I look at the size of their joints, thicker being better naturally (and preferably WITH filter), and the abandonment with which they play.

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#17 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 12:19PM
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Archaeologuy wrote:

I’m sure if this were 20 years ago the guys in Gagner’s category wouldnt have missed more than a game or two and it would have been called the flu.

Or "upper body injury".

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#18 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 12:20PM
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spOILer wrote:

I look at the size of their joints, thicker being better naturally

Somebody's going to comment on that one.

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#19 roadrunner
July 12 2009, 12:25PM
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I'll avoid the comment and keep it as an inside voiceJonathan Willis wrote:

spOILer wrote: I look at the size of their joints, thicker being better naturally Somebody’s going to comment on that one.

I'll keep my comment to myself. ;)

It's not only the size of the players but also the equipment advances over the last 15 years which have, in my opinion, increased the number of injuries.

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#20 Librarian Mike
July 12 2009, 12:26PM
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spOILer wrote:

I look at the size of their joints, thicker being better naturally

That's what sh....aah, never mind.

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#21 Librarian Mike
July 12 2009, 12:29PM
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@ roadrunner:

For sure. I mean, just watch a game from the 80s and it's like slow motion out there, not to mention the fact that they all look like kids due to their size/lack of big equipment.

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#22 vern
July 12 2009, 12:47PM
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Equipment and training advances have made players stronger and faster. The puck is shot at a higher velocity. However the main factor in the increase in injuries due to equipment in mental. Players play with less caution because they think the equipment will protect them.

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#23 roadrunner
July 12 2009, 12:54PM
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vern wrote:

Equipment and training advances have made players stronger and faster. The puck is shot at a higher velocity. However the main factor in the increase in injuries due to equipment in mental. Players play with less caution because they think the equipment will protect them.

Agreed! The feeling of invincibility has increased but so has the blatant disregard for other players on the ice. It's ruthlessly reckless sometimes and it doesn't matter how well protected you are, that type of mindset is always dangerous.

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#24 Chris
July 12 2009, 01:44PM
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Based on Khabibulin's injury track record: I sure hope Tambellini has a "plan B" concerning the backup goaltending situation. IMO, JDD hasn't yet shown that he is a "legit" backup. There is a very real difference between Quinn deciding to give JDD a start based on strong performances in practice, or weaker opposition; than being forced to go with him exclusively for a twenty game stretch due to injury.

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#25 MattL
July 12 2009, 02:33PM
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Eric Lindros should have been the sturdiest player to have ever played, going on size. Same goes for his brother who had even worse luck.

I think hockey sense is part of it, and propensity to skate into danger areas, keeping your head up or down, mix in some luck too. How many of Lindros' vicious hits happened with his head down looking at the puck?

Another thing that pops into my mind is that EVERYONE who plays in the NHL for more than a few seasons is already doing pretty well, health-wise. How many people screw up their knees, shoulders, etc... before they even make it to the show? Over the course of a career, averaging 60 games/season isn't a bad average for such a brutal sport where they often play 3-4 times each week.

And lastly I feel compelled to add that Ethan Moreau had one of the longest iron-man streaks in the league before his recent bout of bad luck. Just one of the many reasons he wears a "C" on his chest, methinks.

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#26 ~Steele
July 12 2009, 02:34PM
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Hey, I haven't heard anything in the Oilesphere about Gilberts Bulging Disk. I read it is a news clip about 3 weeks after the season ended & no one has repeated this issue. I hear it is very similar to what Jaques went through. Anyone else heard about this???????

~Steele

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#27 David S
July 12 2009, 05:52PM
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~Steele wrote:

Hey, I haven’t heard anything in the Oilesphere about Gilberts Bulging Disk. I read it is a news clip about 3 weeks after the season ended & no one has repeated this issue. I hear it is very similar to what Jaques went through. Anyone else heard about this??????? ~Steele

I had one of those. It gets worse over time and can be debilitating. The only real solution is surgery to shave the disk. Had that too. Takes a few months to get back to speed. Maybe he's getting it fixed this off-season.

Nice piece Jonathan.

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#28 nullterm
July 12 2009, 06:53PM
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Zack Stortini deserves SPECIAL mention.

Seeing his knee injury on live TV I can remember being absolutely horrified that he was done. Then a couple days later he's interviewed saying he'll be back in a few games nothing serious.

Wasn't that the one that involved the TV guy fainting from seeing the replay that screwed up a US broadcast?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pq0hRuy8mLk

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#29 Jonathan Willis
July 12 2009, 08:26PM
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Matheson on Gilbert, back in April:

Oilers defenceman Tom Gilbert agreed to play for the United States at the world hockey championship in Switzerland, but backed out, literally. He hurt his back before last fall's training camp and battled through this season, not missing a game, but Oilers doctor David Reid asked Gilbert after the season ended if he'd had a day when his back wasn't sore, and Gilbert said no. The Oilers thought it best that Gilbert pass on the worlds. "Tom had four or five episodes during the season, but not enough that he couldn't play. He's got a herniated disc and it's best that he rest it," said Oilers trainer Ken Lowe.

Haven't heard a thing since.

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#30 oil fan
July 12 2009, 10:12PM
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Good read thanks

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#31 Peter Pan
July 12 2009, 11:01PM
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How is this relevant to Dany F'n Heatley?

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#32 Movie Trailer Fan
July 13 2009, 07:57AM
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I don't get very well the concept here, so I believe people may disagree with it.

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#33 scorecoff hemmercules
July 13 2009, 08:01AM
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@ Peter Pan:

Haha, will it ever end??? I'm sick of seing all these other teams signing guys and making trades and we sit here with an injury prone goalie, senior citizens behind the bench, down a centerman and no moves in sight. At this rate Colorado will be ahead of us in no time.

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#34 Poo Czar
July 13 2009, 08:01AM
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How has nobody mentioned the obvious correlation between Donair consumption and hockey longevity? Get Sparky to install a locker room Donair stand STAT!!!

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#35 MikeP
July 15 2009, 08:38PM
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Death Metal Nightmare wrote:

Dustin Penner: 261 NHL games without injury play soft, then you get to hangout every game.

You don't watch him in front of the net much, do you? Man takes some abuse there, and he's not shy about going back when he gets pushed out either.

I don't think Vis is a huge concern; wasn't that his first shoulder injury? I think the team said at the time that those heal cleanly but slowly.

My nightmare is a concussion to Hemsky or Gagner. Neither of them are shy about physical contact either, even if they're usually taking rather than giving. Hopefully Gilbert's back is fine, that seemed to really hamper him last year, even if he was able to play through it.

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