Monday, September 29, 2014
Injuries Make Impacts Before Opening Night
As the old saying goes, you can't win the Stanley Cup in October but you can certainly lose it. Significant injuries put teams in immediate jeopardy, and difficult starts can often derail a season even before it starts. With the preseason in full swing, opening night is coming quick — and here are three situations that will wreak major havoc on their teams for October and possibly beyond.
In recent years, the Detroit Red Wings have faced non-stop doubts about whether their playoff streak will finally end. The 2014-15 campaign may not be it, but they're certainly starting it behind the 8-ball. Pavel Datsyuk will miss at least a month with a separated shoulder. The Detroit depth chart survived previous generational transitions because Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg were able to take over from Steve Yzerman and company.
These days, the Nicklas Lidstrom-sized hole on the blueline is being stitched together by committee, and while there are good forwards on the squad, none have displayed the all-star talent of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. Coach Mike Babock survived previous catastrophic injury situations by playing tight systemic hockey. The Wings will have to handle the Datsyuk injury with similar discipline.
In some ways, the Jordan Staal era of Carolina looks to be a bust. He simply hasn't put up the points expected out of him. However, a closer look at advanced stats shows that the younger Staal really is one of the key drivers of possession for the Hurricanes. He takes on tough competition, plays in all situations, and has delivered in many ways outside of goals and assists (yes, he can certainly do more).
A broken bone in his leg isn't just a problem for Carolina; it's devastating. This is far different from losing a one-dimensional sniper like Alex Semin; Staal is an all-around player that will be missed in every situation. The length (several months) of his injury is a massive hole that creates many problems for Carolina. On the bright side, well, they could hope for getting Connor McDavid in the draft.
The New York Rangers made it to the Stanley Cup Final through stellar goaltending, timely goals, and tough defense. That recipe certainly got stirred up with news that Derek Stepan fractured his left fibula in a conditioning drill. New York's depth took a hit during the offseason, when veteran players left up and down the roster. That makes Stepan's injury even more perilous.
Stepan may not put up first-line numbers yet (57 points in 82 games) but he's a proven performer that, at age 24, should get better over time. The Rangers center depth is frightfully thin, with only hit-and-miss playmaker Derick Brassard and journeyman Dominic Moore offering up significant NHL experience. Alain Vignault may tinker with moving Martin St. Louis to center or giving one of the prospects a go.