Injuries stymied several teams’ success this year. Which teams were the most affected?
Injuries are an unfortunate side effect of playing a sport. As hitting, blocking shots, and fighting are all a part of hockey, it is not uncommon to see a high number of injuries during an NHL season. When injuries accumulate, they often alter the course of a team’s season.
Some teams are able to recover from key injuries. Recently, teams such as the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Pittsburgh Penguins were able to make deep playoff runs despite missing important players.
Other teams were not as fortunate. There were several teams that suffered a variety of injuries this season. These teams lost several key players, whose production could not be replaced. As a result, they struggled to find success on the ice.
Toronto Maple Leafs
The Toronto Maple Leafs are currently working to rebuild their franchise, which has not reached the playoffs since the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season. This year, the Maple Leafs finished last in the NHL standings with 69 points, thanks to a team-record 53 total losses. Toronto continued to struggle this season, as many players suffered injuries.
Throughout the course of the season, 43 different skaters played for the Maple Leafs. Toronto’s offense suffered, as they were forced to play without several of their top forwards. Only one skater, defenseman Morgan Rielly, played all 82 games for Toronto.
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Toronto was without forward James van Riemsdyk for the second half of the season. Van Riemsdyk is a key part of Toronto’s offense; in his three prior seasons with Toronto, he was one of the top three point-scorers on the team each year. Playing only 40 games, van Riemsdyk’s total of 14 goals was the fourth-highest on the Maple Leafs.
New Jersey Devils
At the beginning of the season, many sports media outlets projected the Devils to finish as one of the worst teams in the NHL. Despite their low expectations, the Devils managed to win 38 games, finishing with 84 points. The Devils’ goaltending unit, led by Cory Schneider, was one of their biggest strengths. Though they could keep the puck out of the net, the Devils often failed to score goals of their own. Numerous injuries hindered New Jersey’s offense, which finished as the weakest in the NHL.
Only five Devils scored at least 10 goals this season. One of those five, Mike Cammalleri missed the second half of the season due to injury. Cammalleri’s absence weakened New Jersey’s already anemic offense, which scored the fewest goals in the league. Last season, Cammalleri was a key contributor to the Devils’ offense with 42 points, only one point behind team leader Adam Henrique.
The Devils were also without captain Patrik Elias for most of the season, which further hampered their offense. Elias missed the first 20 games of the season with a knee injury before being placed on the injured reserve list in December. The Devils captain played in only 16 games this season, scoring only two goals and dishing out six assists. Throughout his career, Elias has been an important member of the Devils’ roster, leading the team all-time with 408 goals, 617 assists, and 1,025 points. At 40, having a long-term injury could possibly affect Elias’ decision to return next year.
Last summer, the Edmonton Oilers used their fourth first overall draft pick since 2010 to select future star Connor McDavid. Though McDavid started out strong, he broke his clavicle in early November, causing him to miss 37 games of his rookie season. When McDavid returned after the All-Star Break, the Oilers’ offense improved. Despite only playing 45 games, McDavid scored 48 points during his rookie season.
McDavid was not the only Oilers forward who missed significant time. Benoit Pouliot and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins were injured, each playing only 55 games this season. Nugent-Hopkins contributed 34 points, while Pouliot recorded 36.
This season was not the first time the Oilers suffered numerous injuries. All four of the Oilers’ first-overall draft selections since 2010 have suffered at least one significant injury in their career. The only of those four players not injured this year was Taylor Hall.
The Oilers have accumulated several young players with high potential. Unfortunately, a long list of injuries has once again prevented them from showing that potential.
The Montreal Canadiens are arguably the team that injuries most affected this year. After winning the Atlantic Division last year, the Canadiens began this season with an NHL-record 9-0 start. A series of injuries, however, would cause the Habs to finish 13th in the Atlantic Division with 82 points.
Montreal’s most significant injury was to goalie Carey Price. Price suffered a knee injury in late October, then re-aggravated the injury shortly after returning to action a month later. He would not return for the rest of the season.
Mike Condon and Ben Scrivens started the remaining games in net, but they were unable to match Price’s success. The Canadiens were 21-34-4 in games after Price’s injury.
While Price’s injury was significant, it was not the only loss that caused the Canadiens to suffer. Defenseman P.K. Subban suffered a neck injury late in the season, and he did not return to action by the end of the year. Subban provided 51 points, including a team-high 45 assists. In the remaining 13 games without Subban, Montreal allowed at least four goals eight different times.
Due to the Canadiens’ extensive number of injuries, 11 different players made their NHL debuts for the Canadiens, including goalie Mike Condon. Despite winning their first nine games of the season, Montreal earned only six points in 14 games in December, negating the effects of their strong start.
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