Injuries are part of hockey. Sometimes, teams suffer more injuries than the norm, or they suffer a series of unexpected injuries to vital players. Other times, they suffer fewer injuries than the norm, or their key players make it through a year virtually unscathed. Some of it has to do with personnel – there’s a reason certain teams consistently post decent totals in this regard – but there’s a big element of chance.
This year, the Oilers were not especially unlucky.
The Oilers finished the season with 241 man-games lost to injury, and as of a few weeks ago were middle-of-the-pack in that category in the NHL (of the four worst teams in the NHL, they were also the only one to finish with less than 300 man-games lost to injury).
Here are the players who missed time in 2011-12:
|Cam Barker||39||Wildly ineffective defenseman was no loss|
|Ryan Whitney||30||He was injured prior to the season|
|Ryan Nugent-Hopkins||18||Core player, but not projected as one in September|
|Taylor Hall||18||Core player with a pre-existing injury|
|Corey Potter||17||Unremarkable depth defenseman|
|Theo Peckham||17||Unremarkable depth defenseman|
|Ben Eager||15||Fourth-line ruffian|
|Darcy Hordichuk||15||Fourth-line ruffian|
|Ales Hemsky||13||Core player|
|Tom Gilbert||13||Core player|
|Andy Sutton||7||Lost more time to suspension than injury|
|Sam Gagner||7||Core player|
|Nikolai Khabibulin||5||As with 2010-11, games missed were no loss|
|Jordan Eberle||4||Less than five games lost|
|Anton Lander||3||Less than five games lost|
|Eric Belanger||3||Less than five games lost|
|Jeff Petry||3||Less than five games lost|
|Ladislav Smid||3||Less than five games lost|
|Lennart Petrell||3||Less than five games lost|
|Ryan O’Marra||1||Less than five games lost|
|Shawn Horcoff||1||Less than five games lost|
A bunch of guys missed less than five games. That sort of lost time can be safely chalked up as the cost of doing business and largely dismissed.
Of the remaining games, fully 117 of them (Barker, Potter, Peckham, Eager, Hordichuk, Plante, Khabibulin) were to players whose absence was not particularly painful. In a few cases – Barker and Khabibulin in particular – those players being out of the lineup allowed superior replacements to play.
Ryan Whitney’s injury problems this season were entirely foreseeable. He was hurt last season, he was hurt over the summer, and the Oilers had plenty of time to address that weakness.
Put it all together, and 168 (69.7%) of the Oilers’ 241 man-games lost were either of the one/two game variety, entirely foreseeable, or to fringe players. Of the remaining 73 games lost, huge chunks went to a guy with another pre-existing injury (Hall), a guy who was questionable to make the team out of training camp (Nugent-Hopkins), and IR regulars Ales Hemsky and Sam Gagner.
There’s simply no argument to be made that this team had bad injury luck.