One of the most critical factors in the success or failure of an NHL career is injury. Injuries can reduce effectiveness, limit games played, and at their worst shorten or end careers. Given that they are so impactful, it makes sense to be aware of the injury record of various players, and to take it into account when making decisions.
How has the current Oilers’ roster fared over the last five seasons?
All injury data courtesy of TSN, and these numbers reflect only NHL-level injuries over the last five seasons.
|Ales Hemsky||26||131||Shoulder (x7), knee (x3), concussion (x2), groin, leg, flu|
|Nikolai Khabibulin||23||113||Lower body (x3), back (x2), eye, groin, knee , finger|
In 2009-10, a common refrain when providing reasons for the Oilers ineptitude went something like this: “How would Pittsburgh do without Sidney Crosby and Marc-Andre Fleury?
The sad truth is that two of the most important players to the current roster have a long track record of serious injury problems. Ales Hemsky plays a fearless style, chasing the puck without concern for his sometimes frail body. He has paid the price time and again. Meanwhile, as Nikolai Khabibulin’s career is winding down, he finds himself on the injured list time and again with a range of maladies.
The best forward on the team and the starting goaltender are both unreliable due to injury.
Serious Reason For Concern
|Kurtis Foster||19||94||Leg (x2), groin (x2), throat, knee, cheekbone, back, lower body, head, neck|
|Jim Vandermeer||18||88||Ankle (x5), upper body|
|Taylor Hall||17||17||Ankle (one season)|
|Ryan Whitney||17||86||Groin (x3), ankle, left foot, personal reasons|
|Jean-Francois Jacques||16||79||Back (x4), foot|
Taylor Hall’s presence on this list is a little misleading, as he’s only played one season so his ankle injury looms large. There is some reason for concern – his susceptibility to injury was cited pre-draft as a reason to draft Tyler Seguin – but as long as this isn’t happening every season he will be okay.
Jim Vandermeer has broken both of his ankles over the last five seasons, and had a spate of minor injuries in the same area as well. It’s going to be a concern for the rest of his NHL career. Most fans are familiar with Kurtis Foster’s horrific leg injury, which accounts for the bulk of his number above, but he has also had other issues as well. Meanwhile, I’m relatively certain that a good deal of Jean-Francois Jacques’ ineffectiveness is thanks to chronic back problems; he was a good prospect and those injuries will probably end his NHL career in the not too distant future.
Ryan Whitney’s injury history was a concern when he was acquired, and the team can’t afford to be without him.
Reason For Concern
|Shawn Horcoff||14||71||Knee (x2), foot, bronchitis, lower body, flu, shoulder, leg (x2)|
|Jordan Eberle||13||13||Ankle (one season)|
|Ladislav Smid||12||59||Concussion (x2), head, shoulder, leg, knee, hand, arm ,neck, illness|
|Gilbert Brule||12||58||Flu (x3), illness, tonsils, concussion, ankle, abdominal|
Gilbert Brule is probably the most interesting player on this list from a purely injury-based point of view. Firstly, the ghastly injuries suffered at the start of his career aren’t included on this list (they occurred in 2005-06, one season prior to my five season cut-off) but there’s no doubt they’ve impacted his career. Lately though Brule’s missed a bunch of time to a variety of poorly-explained ailments that may or may not be related to each other. Interestingly, the games he missed this season were predominantly road games.
Ladislav Smid is actually a guy I tend to think of as rather rugged, but he simply seems incapable of protecting himself. He takes huge hits seemingly every game and generally bounces right back up, but I wonder if at some point we’ll see one big injury and after that he’ll be hurt all the time. Shawn Horcoff’s knees have cost him a lot of games the last few seasons, and will be an area to watch going forward.
As with Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle’s placement here is a result of one relatively big injury in his sole NHL season, and we don’t need to worry as long as this doesn’t keep happening.
|Sam Gagner||9||34||Hand, hip, knee, lower body, ankle, concussion, undisclosed (four seasons)|
|Steve MacIntyre||9||28||Orbital fracture, back, personal (three seasons)|
|Theo Peckham||7||21||Shoulder, concussion, flu, hand (three seasons)|
|Ryan Jones||6||19||Torn MCL, upper body (three seasons)|
Theo Peckham is the player on this list that worries me most. I’ve got “three seasons” written down next to his injuries, but the reality is that the first two were partial seasons, and he plays an intensely physical game. I really like the player, but we’re seeing problems early and I wouldn’t be surprised in the least if they become a theme over the course of his career.
Beyond that, Sam Gagner’s been fairly brittle the last two years and there is reason to be worried there, while both Steve MacIntyre and Ryan Jones have essentially had one big injury.
|Tom Gilbert||3||16||Back, head|
|Colin Fraser||2||6||Foot (x2) (three seasons)|
|Zack Stortini||2||6||Knee (four seasons)|
|Devan Dubnyk||1||1||Virus (two seasons)|
|Magnus Paajarvi||0||0||One season|
|Linus Omark||0||0||One season|
|Jeff Petry||0||0||One season|
|Teemu Hartikainen||0||0||One season|
|Andrew Cogliano||0||0||Four seasons|
Generally, this list has a lot of kids that haven’t played long enough for us to form conclusions – guys like Devan Dubnyk, Magnus Paajarvi, Linus Omark, Jeff Petry and Teemu Hartikainen. But there are some legitimately durable guys here.
Tom Gilbert is a favourite whipping boy for many, and I anticipate lots of, ‘well, if Shirley was willing to take a hit’-style comments, but he blocks a lot of shots, plays a lot of minutes in a position that tends to see a lot of injuries, and doesn’t get hurt. That has value. Andrew Cogliano has also been remarkably durable, perhaps because his speed means he can avoid a lot of checks, but he also plays a fairly intense game and sees some contact. Once again, his durability is valuable.
Some depth pieces show up here as well. Colin Fraser has generally been healthy over his time in the NHL, Zack Stortini is freakishly durable given the amount of contact he sustains, and one would never guess that Jason Strudwick is an aging, physical defenseman from his placement on this list. The limited utility of these players means that their health has less value than a guy like Gilbert or Cogliano, but healthy fill-ins are certainly preferable to unhealthy ones.