It's the kind of information that gets us questioning who has it out for us worse: The Islanders training staff, or the hockey gods who seem hellbent on cursing us?
James Mirtle has a nicely digestible table of man-games lost to injury for the last four seasons, and it will surprise few of you to see that the Islanders "lead" the league over that span, with a four-year average of 392 games per season. Part of that figure is skewed by this season's ridiculous projection of about 566 games, give or take a Weight or Park. Rick DiPietro has been out virtually all season, and a guy like Mike Sillinger -- also part of the Islanders' off-season Hip Surgery Brigade -- has missed all but a handful of games. Doug Weight's three injury spells this year returned the power play to a Streit-dependent average (and made Chris Campoli wonder when he'd ever get another shot at the point).
In demonstrating that the Islanders have "led" the league or finished second in three of the last four seasons, the table also shows how the figure has increased each successive year. This pre-Gordon trend would seem to absolve Scott Gordon's aggressive system as a cause for this year's carnage, though it leaves the oft-questioned (by fans) training staff as a target ripe for volleys.
But Islesblogger Mike tabulated one injury stretch earlier this season to show that they were largely the fluke injuries that you can't lay on a training staff. Similarly, Chris Botta spoke up in December to try to quell the discontent of your average fan with an Internet-enabled medical degree. (That said, the drama surrounding DiPietro's return from surgery this offseason was at minimum a case study in poor communication among star and GM, and medical, PR and coaching staff -- made worse by a farcical injury-disclosure policy that has since been rectified.)
The incessant flow of injuries is maddening, to be sure. You look for a culprit the way Joba Caveman questions if the place he last lit a fire ticked off the gods, causing the tree limb to fall on his son and his wife to run off with that furry tribe that hangs out in the next valley over.
But questions about training and recovery habits -- even in a four-year sample -- are something you can only speculate about, often without knowing what factors are truly involved. If someone wants to explain how the Islanders staff somehow has affected this, I'm all ears. But the burden of proof is pretty damn high.
How Many Points Have Injuries Cost the Islanders?
But a more answerable question is how the Islanders would have done without this injury load. Certainly last season (402 man-games) under Ted Nolan turned south when Rick DiPietro -- so good up to the All-Star break -- messed up his knee and hip and left a then-playoff-ranked squad with too little depth to survive. But DiPietro wasn't the only one: Then-key guy Sillinger also left for good in February. Like post-All-Star Game DiPietro, guys like Miro Satan and Ruslan Fedotenko battled through injuries all season long -- which exposed Nolan's reluctance to play their Bridgeport replacements other than Blake Comeau.
Two seasons ago (351), the team famously made the playoffs thanks to a late, four-game, Wade Dubielewicz-led charge without an injured DiPietro. The kind of random occurrence that tells you to forget injuries -- that's why they play the games.
This season, it's impossible to tell how the Islanders would have done if healthy, because they simply never were. From DiPietro and Sillinger to the entire roster of defensemen, every single player has missed significant time -- Mark Streit the least, and yet his absence clearly showed in all five games without the would-be Norris candidate.
More than any one star's loss, though, injuries inevitably get you by over-exposing your tam's depth players -- or lack of, in the Islanders' case. The Islanders' two brief winning streaks this season have indeed coincided with the lineup being at its healthiest. Yann Danis' winning play of late has been a reasonable facsimile of DiPietro at his best, raising the question of whether the Islanders would have been bad -- but not lottery-assured bad -- with better health.. Yet injuries or not, the Islanders wouldn't have turned 100% toward their youth-filled injury until the season was a lost cause, anyway. Maybe this curse carried a happy side effect.
At the end of this summer, if the Islanders find a John Tavares or Victor Hedman in their pocket, they may have injury "luck" and Garth Snow's commitment to substitute from within (rather than make panic trades vets) to thank for their prize. Otherwise, if perfectly healthy, this maligned lineup just might have squeaked its way to the 8th-11th "bubble" area where it's spent all of the recent seasons prior.
That's a standings purgatory no fan wanted to see again.