Tuesday, August 26, 2014

A Guide to the Injury Prone for 2014

This is definitely one of my favourite lists to do on the blog, as it provides a little bit of homework and allows for a little bit more confidence in my own projection lists.  When it comes to draft day, I like the thought of knowing that I can choose between an injury prone player and a reasonably healthy player... and I know which one I would choose.

I wouldn't necessarily overlook an injury prone player, I know I've taken some in the past, but I will try to assess some risk and take these players in more of a position of strength, instead of picking them too early.  These are the kind of players I would rather make a bargain out of, then take the chance that they will actually hit their target projections.

In last year's follies, finishing 8th in the draft, I did have three of my noted injury prone players at one point or another.  Marian Gaborik, Jeff Skinner and Kevin Bieksa were all chosen last year and they didn't disappoint... in my assessment of their injury prone nature.  Bieksa ended up being best, missing only six games, while Skinner missed 11 and I had to drop Gaborik in November to a major knee injury.  My team still finished 4th in skater games played, but it wasn't enough.  My goaltending decisions at the draft let me down.

Remarkably, no one in the money actually finished in the top four in skater games, but all four teams had high scoring rates from their appearances, but they were not slouches in the game-playing category either.  Having guys on the ice will give you a better chance at winning, then you have to worry about how well they actually score.

So, we'll have a look at the new names to the list and then we'll go over those who have been added before.

Two concussions in the span of 12 months will definitely land you on the injury prone list. Newly-acquired forward for the Nashville Predators, James Neal, suffered two concussions between the 2013 & 2014 season and he has now been added. In the 2013 season, he missed eight games and last season, he missed 23 games due to injury. Sure, he played 80 games in 2011 and 79 games in 2010, but now that we're into concussion territory, I grow awfully weary of those and don't prefer having the soft heads on my hockey pool team.

In the last four seasons, the best that Ryan Callahan was able to muster was 45 out of 48 games in the 2013 season. Last year, Callahan missed 17 games in New York, before his trade out to Tampa Bay, where he was able to finish out the year. Callahan does play a rough and tumble game, which hasn't allowed him to play a full year in recent memory, so his projections should be tempered somewhat for the year.

Another player with a pair of concussions in the 2014 season gets added to the list, as Boston Bruins forward Loui Eriksson should be taken with a grain of salt too.  An illegal hit from John Scott, who is now with the San Jose Sharks, got the ball rolling on Eriksson's addition to the list and Brooks Orpik, who is now in Washington, hit him again not long after he returned, sending him back through the league's protocol.  That's not something that you want to see happen to a player, but it does from time-to-time.

In terms of receiving some mild consideration, Toronto Maple Leafs forward Tyler Bozak was noted through the 2014 season to possibly put here and after consideration, I think it might be a good idea. Bozak only played in 58 games for Toronto last season, thanks to a hamstring injury and an oblique injury, and he has missed some time in the two seasons previously, although not quite as major.  I may not want to discount him too badly, but I do want to add names to this list and his did come up.

Officially getting added to the list is Winnipeg Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian, who hasn't had the most luck in recent memory either. Groin problems, starting in November last season, really took a toll on the offensive defender, which limited his year to only 55 games. In 2013, he missed 15 games, 2012 saw him miss 17 games and 2011, he missed 11 games.  Some of those numbers are not too bad, but at the same time, he doesn't appear to be a lock for 82 games and should be projected to be that way.

After rocketing to the top of the goal scoring lead in 2014, Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues came crashing back down to Earth, due to injury.  Steen also suffered a concussion during the year and didn't quite come back just right.  He still finished 51st in pool scoring and had a productive year, but he has missed significant time in the past, including 39 games in 2012.  I would be a tad weary of how many games he'll be able to play, since he hasn't strung together an 82-game (or 48-game in 2013) season in a while.

I don't want to come across as picking on a guy with Multiple Sclerosis, but this is a hockey pool blog, where we are dealing with small amounts of friendly gambling. Josh Harding of the Minnesota Wild does have MS and is bravely keeping his NHL career alive with his treatments and medication, but there is no cure for this disease and there is just no telling, especially publicly, when it will get the better of him.  The reports of him before training camp are positive, but it should be noted that he is still dealing with it and that should go into your consideration for your hockey pool team.

Looking over Mike Cammalleri's numbers over the past four seasons, he hasn't done very well with those 82-game schedules. In his time in Calgary, he couldn't eclipse the 70-game mark in the full seasons, but he flew under the radar after the shortened year, playing in 44 of 48 games.  This might be an issue that continues on, as Cammalleri has moved onto New Jersey through free agency.  He may have been given a fresh start to his career, but with another 82-game schedule released, I would have my worries about this trend and this winger.

A brand new Winnipeg Jets player gets added to the list, to go with a long-time player, as Mathieu Perreault doesn't quite have the strongest of trends in terms of games played either. Perreault missed 13 games with the Ducks in 2014, missed 9 games with the Capitals in 2013 and an upper-body injury with the Capitals in 2012 didn't help his cause either. He doesn't have a terrible track record, but I don't think I could trust him on my list, to be perfectly honest with you.  A definite 'buyer beware' situation.

Players Added in Years Past

Alexander Semin and Joffrey Lupul were both added to the list in 2010 and both of them suffered pretty good injuries in November of last season.  Semin had a concussion and Lupul had a pretty serious groin injury, keeping them out their respective line-ups.  These two will remain on the list as some pretty high risk players.

Marian Gaborik, now with the Los Angeles Kings, suffered a pretty good knee injury in Columbus, before his trade to the Stanley Cup champs, which caused him to miss significant time.  Gaborik was a 2009 addition and you should tread lightly around him still.

Washington Capitals defenseman Mike Green also missed 12 games last season, keeping up a reputation of being somewhat soft.  He is in the final year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of it, so he better shape up for the Summer, if he wants to get paid.

A common player on the list and rightfully so, Detroit Red Wings forward Johan Franzen.  He only played in 54 games for Detroit and was still deemed pool worthy, ranking in at 172nd overall in scoring.  Yes, he may be better than a lot of players, even for missing 28 games, but I would count on him to miss time and not project his numbers with 82 games.

Stephen Weiss of the Red Wings, was acquired last year to add some depth to their forward lines, instead, he added depth to their infirmary, playing in only 28 games last season.  That took him right out of contention for pool-worthiness, but he does insist that he is better and is ready to go for 2015.

The Penguins do expect to see Kristopher Letang back in action again this season, despite suffering a stroke late last year.  Letang had a tough year all around, also suffering other injuries that kept him out of the line-up, but the stroke was a real doozy.  He is a top end defender, when healthy, but he hasn't been completely healthy since 2011.

Also in Pittsburgh, Evgeni Malkin had a tough year, dealing with lower-body injuries, including a foot injury, which the team kept him out of the line-up for the last 11 games, mostly to be ready for the playoffs.  This is also a concern for most superstar players, heading into the post-season.  Malkin does get banged up a lot and if the team will, they will rest him leading up to the big games.

Names also to consider: Jeff Skinner of the Canes, Paul Stastny of the Blues, Daniel Briere of the Avs, Vincent Lecavalier of the Flyers, David Booth of the Leafs, Martin Hanzal of the Coyotes, Martin Havlat of the Devils and Kari Lehtonen of the Stars.

One name that is on the list, trying to make a comeback, is forward Simon Gagne, who didn't play in the NHL in the 2014 season.  He has agreed to a tryout at Bruins camp and is a full member of the injury prone list.  Don't get too excited, if he makes the team.

There are some players that are on the list that had really good 2014 seasons and they should be pointed out.  By good seasons, they were able to play 75+ games, allowing for minor knocks.  David Legwand, now of the Ottawa Senators, was the only player on the list to play a full season, playing 83 games between Nashville and Detroit.  He was added to the list in 2008 and has done well since.  Andrei Markov played 81 games for the Habs, coming awfully close to a full year.  Ryan Nugent-Hopkins of the Oilers, Tomas Fleischmann of the Panthers and Sidney Crosby of the Penguins all had 80-game years.  Lars Eller, Eric Brewer, Mikael Backlund, Sergei Gonchar, Kevin Bieksa, Ales Hemsky and Erik Cole have all been added to the list over the last six seasons and all had good years.  Some I may discount more than others still, but you can be happy that they have had good years.

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