Monday, August 03, 2015

A Guide to the Injury Prone for 2015

The injury prone list makes another appearance this year and it is a very important list, as it has proven to be a pretty good tool, when looking at players that you might want to avoid for your hockey pool team or at the very least, assume some risk, if you decide to add him to your roster.

Much like a lot of things in a hockey pool, luck plays a huge part of what you're going to get in a hockey season, but if you can identify those players that have a history of getting hurt, there is a good chance that they will get hurt again.  When players are hurt, there is absolutely no way they will be able to get you any points.

When I do my player rankings for scoring, I prefer to sort players by their games played or minutes played in a descending order, because it is far more important to have players that give you a chance for points, more so than it is than their points scoring ratio.  Rarely does that really come into play, but I think it makes a difference.

Here is one that possibly should have been added to the list years ago, but quietly hid away from the list for a while, until now.  Montreal forward Max Pacioretty, the 36th best player in hockey pool points last year, is expected to miss training camp and possibly the opening week of the 2016 season, thanks to a knee injury he suffered in training, back in July.  The injury was expected to keep him out for 12 weeks and when you combine that with numerous little injuries here and there, can he really be trusted on your hockey pool team?

There may not be a great dent on his regular season points with this particular injury, because there is a chance he could suit up on opening night and not miss a game, but the argument does present itself... how will missing training camp affect the start of his season?  Most of these players are in such great shape as it is, training camp isn't quite what it used to be and the only thing Pacioretty may miss is his timing.

In doing some research for the Rumour Mill blog, it dawned on me that Kyle Okposo has been missing from this list of players that can't seem to play a full season.  The 2015 season was marred by an upper-body injury, which cost him 22 games, while a lower-body injury cost him 10 games in the 2014 season.  To be fair, he played a full shortened season in 2013, getting all 48 games, but does that really count?  2012 had a few games missed, while a shoulder injury in 2011 cost him 44 games.  Maybe in total, he'll be a guy that can play a short season, but the rigors of the full 82-game schedule are a bit much, perhaps?

Last season, without much mention of any injury prone status, Okposo's stock was quite high, as he went in the 3rd round of the draft.  It will be interesting to see where he lands this year, seeing as though he is still with the Islanders, after a rumour-filled off-season.

The three out of the last four seasons for Mark Giordano have been marred by some long-term injuries. The only season that wasn't, was the 2013 shortened season, where he managed to play 47 of 48 games that year. Otherwise, it was a leg injury in the 2012 season that cost him 21 games, a lower-body injury in the 2014 season that cost him 18 games and then the bicep tear in the 2015 season, which had him sidelined for the last 21 regular season games and then the entire playoff run.  He did manage to play 82 games in a season, but the last time he was able to do that was in 2011.

I would have to agree with those who were clamoring for a Norris Trophy nomination, before he was hurt this year, but it does appear that now that his role has increased with the Flames, Giordano does come with a fair bit of risk.  His torn bicep should be healed and ready to go for October 7th, but where will he fit in the hockey pool draft?

There are always going to be players that are missed when producing this list year over year and a good example of this is goaltender Steve Mason, who isn't a stranger to seeing the team therapist or doctor to look at something that is nagging at him.  In the 2015 season, Mason missed a total of 18 games on the shelf, dealing with a back injury and a couple of times with a knee injury in the New Year.  Mason still had an okay year with the Flyers, ranking 148th overall in pool scoring with 18 wins and 45 points.

The Flyers don't have a great deal of depth in goal, so they will be relying heavily on Mason to have another strong year, but I would be tempering my expectations with him, not exactly giving him the benefit of the doubt and likely making him one of the last few NHL starters I would consider for my hockey pool team.

The last four seasons have been more misses than hits for Nashville Predators centre Mike Fisher, thanks to a myriad of little injuries here and there.  In the 2015 season, a notable Achilles tendon injury kept him from the start of the season, missing out on the first 21 games of the year and then missing out on a couple more games at the end of the year and a few in the playoffs.  The last time he had played 82 games was in the 2011 season, the year he was dealt to Nashville from Ottawa and since then it has been an off-and-on relationship with him and the Predators lineup.

Despite the injuries, Fisher still finished 188th overall in pool scoring and was an adequate Waiver Draft pick-up in the year, taken in the second Waiver Draft of the year and picking up 14 points in the last nine weeks of the season.

I think there is a lot to like about Taylor Hall's game, but his recklessness is what costs him in the end. There has been plenty of resistance, in my own pondering, to putting him on this list, but another year, where he's missed 29 games and it lands him here and now he moves into the next draft season as a discounted superstar.  Hall definitely has the potential to be a 90-point player in the NHL, but he would have to play in all 82 games to get there, a feat he has never accomplished.  Hall's best season out of his five was 2014, where he played in 75 games and picked up 80 points.

With a new look overall to the Oilers in the coming season, it will be very interesting to see where Hall fits in and whether or not his game is a little less reckless, since he isn't the poster boy in town anymore.

I could have sworn that James Wisniewski was added to this list already, but it wasn't the case.  In fairness, his 2015 season was tempered by a coach's decision to be a healthy scratch, after moving from Columbus to Anaheim at the trade deadline.  The 31-year old rearguard did miss eight games to three different injuries during the year, so he doesn't get off scot-free in this occasion.  There were seven games missed in 2014, 18 games missed in 2013 to injury and 26 games in 2012 were lost.  Overall, he hasn't been terribly lucky, which is really tough, because he can be quite effective on the scoresheet and in your hockey pool team, but he just has to play.

Since he wasn't getting much of a chance in Anaheim, it seemed logical that the Ducks would eventually move Wisniewski to greener (or more active) pastures and that's just what they did in the deal that moved him to Carolina.  This move won't take care of his injury prone status, but it should help his playing time, as their blueline remains thin.  He's still a risky pick, but could be a bargain, if you pick him up late.

Two goalies added to the list in one year? That's unheard of.  Ottawa's Craig Anderson hits the list with a fairly substantial list of injuries to his name, how he hasn't made the list before is a head-scratcher as well.  In the 2015 season, Anderson missed 19 games to a bruised hand, missing 14 games through February and then missing another five games after possibly coming back a little too soon, perhaps?  Anderson has a record of missing games in his career, a few games here, a handful there and a bunch over there, so he should come with some kind of a warning for hockey poolies.  It also doesn't help that his 2015 season came with the least amount of points in recent memory, 34 points in 35 appearances on the ice.

The Senators goaltending is still being debated about, even after the departure of Robin Lehner to Buffalo.  Anderson's name has been on the list of available keepers through trade, especially since the Senators are now quite high on Andrew Hammond.  Anderson's usefulness as a veteran will help his club, but if a team runs into injury trouble, they might come knocking on Ottawa's door, looking for another injury prone concern.

Can a move to Buffalo, NY prove to be what the doctor ordered for Evander Kane and his inability to play a full NHL season?  Kane's personal best is 74 games in the 2012 season in Winnipeg, where he was able to score 30 goals, but otherwise, his numbers have been less than stellar.  A couple of lower-body injuries and then shoulder surgery limited his play in the 2015 season, not to mention that suspension as well.  All of these have led to more questions than answers about what Kane can bring to an NHL club, which is too bad for a player that was taken with the 4th overall pick in 2009.

Kane was a 5th round pick in last year's draft and I can't see him being any higher than that, especially after a season like 2015.  There will be some renewed hope in his game and being removed from the Canadian market microscope could help his cause as well.  I would still be somewhat weary of what he brings to the table this year.

It's been a few seasons since Montreal forward PA Parenteau played in at least 80 games, but he is another player that hasn't been fortunate enough to play in a full 82-game schedule either. The last three years, two in Colorado and one in Montreal, have not been kind to the 32-year old veteran, as knee problems have been at the root of his health concerns, including an MCL tear in 2014.  Parenteau was a huge help to the Avalanche that year, helping the kids with some veteran presence, but he still wasn't able to be a full season player and it wouldn't surprise me if his health was one of the reasons why the Avs let him walk to Montreal.

I would be very cautious here, even though he won't really pop up on your list right away, thanks to those injury-riddled numbers he had.  You may want to keep your 2016 projections low for the draft and possibly explore his abilities later on in the year, possibly as a Waiver Draft pick-up.

When you have speed to burn, like Michael Grabner, you would think that the rest of the league would have a hard time catching you, let alone getting a chance to injure you.  In his five seasons on Long Island, the slick skating Austrian has gone from missing a few games per season to having more and more periods of time on the shelf.  He can score at some reasonable clips, including 37 points in 45 games during the shortened 2013 season, but a concussion in the 2014 season and hernia surgery in the 2015 season are only two reasons why he has missed some significant time in recent years.

There's very little question that this kid can fly on the ice, he also shows some flashes of some skill on the rush, but his increasing time in the infirmary has me concerned and very weary on wanting to take him, especially late, as a potential sleeper.  You want someone who is going to be playing more nights, in order to be a good sleeper and Grabner hasn't shown that in a little while.

Earlier in the Summer, it was announced that Pittsburgh Penguins forward Pascal Dupuis was given the green light to come back from the blood clot issue he had in his lungs, which was great news.  He will be on special blood thinners, which has been determined, will be enough to let him continue his NHL career, but it does raise a lot of concerns for the betting public, like us poolies.  Dupuis, over his last couple of seasons, when you take into account a major knee injury as well, hasn't been very lucky, but has been fairly fortunate in his career, as a whole.  It is what they've done for us lately and going forward, there are concerns, so he takes a spot on the list, something to be aware of, when it comes time to draft.

Dupuis' knee injury did force the hockey pool to look over him at the initial draft in September last season, but he was thought to be a bit of a diamond in the rough, when the preseason Waiver Draft came along, as he was snapped up as an injury replacement before the regular season came along.  It will be interesting to see where he fits in this September.

Players Added in Years Past

Now, it's part of the post, where I'll go over some of the previously inducted members of the club, see how their 2015 went, possibly offering a little bit more insight going forward.  We'll head down the list, according to their pool points last years, ranking their importance.

Tops on the list is Sidney Crosby, who finished 11th in pool scoring, thanks to the year of the goalie.  Last season, he was able to play in 77 of 82 games, as he was caught by the mumps invasion for a few games and then lost a couple more games to minor knocks later on in the season.  He continues to carry risk, especially when it comes to concussions, even though it was the 2012 season, when he last missed time to the head injury.

Dallas number one keeper, Kari Lehtonen, was next on the list, finishing 14th in pool scoring in 2015, and he missed a total of eight games to injury, including three games to a minor concussion of his own.  Being on this list should be enough reason for the Stars to have acquired the rights and signed Antti Niemi from the Sharks.

Pittsburgh forward Evgeni Malkin comes in 3rd on the list, despite playing only 69 games in 2015, yet still finishing 31st in pool scoring.  Lower-body injuries (the same or different, who knows?) starting at the end of January was what led to the All-Star Russian to miss his 13 games in the year, his longest stretch being six games from the middle of March.  Malkin hasn't played an 82-game season since 2009.

It wasn't a bad year for Alex Steen of the St. Louis Blues, as he only missed eight games in total in 2015, suffering a couple of lower-body injuries of his own in the year, his longest stretch out was six games closer to the end of the regular season.  Steen finished 51st in pool scoring, with 24 goals and 64 points.

Will the addition of Connor McDavid make this a little dicier for Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, who is on the injury prone list?  Nugent-Hopkins missed another six games in 2015, which isn't terrible, by any stretch of the imagination, but the $6 million centre has only played 80 games once in his career and could likely use a big year to finally get his career back on track.

Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan helped his side to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, but in the regular season, he still missed five games, thanks to a lower-body injury, which put him on the Injured Reserve at the start of the season.  Otherwise, it was a pretty good year for the rough and tumble veteran.  2009 was Callahan's last season of 80 or more games, playing in 81 for the Rangers.

Pittsburgh defenseman Kristopher Letang comes with a boat load of risk, but with that risk comes a ton of reward, if he can stay healthy.  In 2015, Letang missed 13 regular season games and all five playoff games for the team, the last portion of the season lost to a concussion.  Unfortunately, the stroke that Letang suffered in 2014 will linger for us poolies, but you know someone will take that risk and it will be that risk that defines their season.

If a player was ever moving closer and closer to coming off the list, which I believe is impossible, but fun to contemplate, Montreal defenseman Andrei Markov appears to be that guy.  Markov missed one game in 2015, not due to the injury, the same in 2014, played the entire shortened season in 2013, but his status has been awarded to him in years previous.  I would say that you could tread a bit more confidently with the veteran, but injury prone status will always be there.

The first full 82-game season on the list comes in at 115th in overall scoring, as Toronto centre Tyler Bozak played the whole year with the Leafs, his first full season since 2011.  He may be a little less risky than some for injury reasons, but he's still a risk, being in Toronto and all.

An injury prone favourite, Los Angeles' Marian Gaborik, missed 13 games in the 2015 regular season, thanks to two upper-body injuries for 12 games and an illness cost him the other game.  The 33-year old Slovak has been so up and down in his career, having actually played 82 games in a season back with the Rangers in 2012.  There doesn't appear to be any rhyme or reason to the number of games he plays or misses, but he does come with significant risk, not to mention some lower projected totals on a lower scoring Kings team.

Last Summer, Loui Eriksson was added to the list, thanks to a concussion-filled 2014 season.  Concussions are not necessarily the same as being injury prone, but I only have one list and Eriksson made it on that merit.  His 2015 season was fairly solid, missing a game due to a bruised hand, so he still played in 81 games.  Concussions are definitely flags that go up for players that get picked in the pool and I think he still carries a risk.

Another entry from 2009, St. Louis forward Paul Stastny didn't get his first season with his new team off to a great start, missing eight games to a sprained shoulder in the first couple weeks, but did manage to come back and play the rest of the season.  Stastny has yet to play a full season since he was added to the list, missing games here and there, hardly able to be relied upon to play a full 82-game schedule.  Adjust accordingly.

Defenseman Mike Green is on his way to Detroit, after spending many years with the Washington Capitals and he takes his injury prone status with him.  In the 2015 season, Green was on the shelf four times, once for seven games with an upper-body injury and the rest were just nights off, for a total of 10 games out.  He has put together back-to-back seasons of 70+ games, but you're likely going to want 80+ games out of your players, so you get more points, so it remains a concern.

Next up on the list, New Jersey's Mike Cammalleri, who was added to the list last Summer, he missed another 14 games in the 2015 season, thanks to a jaw injury, an upper-body injury, a lower-body injury and then he was sick in March.  He was still good for 27 goals on the season for the Devils, but he could have been a 30+ guy in the year, if he didn't miss time.  He seems to be a risk to miss a little bit of time, each year and should be drafted as such.

Also added last year, Winnipeg's Mathieu Perreault, who was added after a rough year in Anaheim and he continued to suffer some injuries with his new team, the Jets.  Perreault had a couple of upper-body injuries in November and January, then missed 16 games to a leg injury in February & March.  The 27-year old centre has never played a full season in the NHL in the better part of six years.

Free agent forward Erik Cole had a poor finish to the 2015 season, as an upper-body injury forced him from the last 10 regular season games and cost him the Red Wings' opening round of the playoffs.  Cole has had some good years of health, since being added to the list in 2008, but the 36-year old is getting up there in years and despite a good season between Dallas/Detroit, he continues to have the warning about being injury prone.

Nashville scoring winger James Neal didn't have the scoring numbers last season and he also missed some more time, due to injury, in 2015.  A lower-body injury and an upper-body injury in the New Year cost Neal 14 games combined and he also missed a game, due to illness, in the year as well.  Since the Predators are not the offensive juggernaut of some of his previous teams, his risk is doubled up.

The Dallas Stars signed up an injury prone favourite last Summer, Ales Hemsky, and he repaid them with a very good, relatively healthy year, playing in 76 games.  In February, Hemsky missed a few games to a lower-body injury, but otherwise was on point for the Stars.  He still remains a high risk player and his scoring has declined in recent years, as he snuck on the pool worthy part of this list with 32 points.

The last of the pool worthy forwards on the list is Carolina's Jeff Skinner, who has some blazing speed to his name, but he also takes a lot of knocks.  The beginning of the 2015 season got off to a rocky start, as a concussion sidelined him for four games and he also missed a game to an illness.  Concussion problems are something to really stay away from, if you can, even if the player plays through the season after the fact.

The last defenseman on the pool worthy portion of this list is Buffalo's Zach Bogosian, who made the move from the Jets to the Sabres during the season and missed some time with both teams in the year.  In Winnipeg, he missed time with a lower-body injury, costing him 14 games and then with Buffalo, he missed another six games, also with a lower-body injury.  He should be primed up for some big minutes in Buffalo this season, but will he play all the games?

There are a few more names worth noting and not forgetting about.  The forwards include Arizona's Martin Hanzal, Buffalo's David Legwand, Calgary's Mikael Backlund, Detroit's Johan Franzen, Montreal's Lars Eller & Alex Semin, Philadelphia's Vincent Lecavalier and Toronto's Joffrey Lupul.  On defense, Anaheim's Kevin Bieksa and free agents Sergei Gonchar, Eric Brewer and Anton Volchenkov should all be noted.

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