Everyone in Vancouver had a case of the sads in mid-January when Henrik Sedin’s ironman streak ended. After 679 games (not counting playoffs), it was a case of not very impressive-sounding bruised ribs that shut him down. The good news is that he’s back to full practice, and should be back soon to start a new streak.
There aren’t a whole lot of ironmen in the NHL at all, let alone currently, and the injuries that end streaks aren’t always the world-ending massive traumatic disasters that you might expect. And then again, sometimes they are.
Martin St Louis – 499 Games
You’ll need more than two hands to count all the NHL players currently out with broken legs, ankles or feet. If you include “lower body injuries” on IR who may or may not have broken limbs (or no limbs, or a really bad cold, or an upset tummy), you may need to take off your socks and keep on counting.
Did somebody grease the ice?
Shot-blocking – inadvertent or on purpose – is a frequent culprit in the land of broken legs. Boston’s Gregory Campbell was last year’s poster child after a Malkin slapshot to the leg left him with a broken right fibula, on which he notoriously finished a shift on the PK. Fractures (and their aftermath) aren’t always that dramatic. Sometimes they’re picked up later on an MRI when a leg won’t stop hurting, and sometimes they’re obvious on tv from thousands of miles away by the screaming player or the fact that legs aren’t supposed to bend in between the joints. This season has produced fractures at both ends of the spectrum and all points in between.
Chris Kelly (Boston) – Fractured right fibula
The Bruins-Penguins game December seventh was one of the uglier debacles in recent memory. Loui Eriksson missed five weeks with a concussion from a Brooks Orpik hit, Shawn Thornton missed those same five weeks serving a suspension for his retaliatory slewfoot/suckerpunch on Orpik, James Neal took a five-game hit for kneeing Brad Marchand in the head, villages were sacked and burned, etc. Pascal Dupuis slashed Chris Kelly’s right leg, and though Kelly played in the third period of the game, it turned out he’d broken his fibula. A broken left tibia last year only kept Kelly out a month, but this time his timeline is closer to six weeks, as he’s only just resumed skating within the last few days. How? The tibial fracture wasn’t very serious. The team actually wasn’t even aware of it initially. X-rays aren’t always obvious right away, which is where the infamous “We have to wait for the swelling to go down” line comes from. Sometimes it takes a while for things to show themselves. This time there was nothing sneaky about the fracture, and Kelly has been spending his time in a walking boot. A fibular fracture will generally heal on its own, and was the injury that Toronto’s Bob Baun infamously fought through in the 1964 Stanley Cup Final.
Joni Pitkanen (Carolina) – Fractured left calcaneus (heel)
Backhand Shelf’s previews for the 2013-14 NHL season are going to work like a choose your own adventure novel, because fans only hear what they want to hear anyway, so we might as well embrace it.
You’ll get the flippant barstool prediction, the push-the-glasses-up-your-nose numbers take, the team is going to be good take, the team is going to be bad take, and then we’ll try to bring it back full circle at the bottom. Let’s get to it.
The Canadiens are going to be good
Few teams in the league are going to be able to hang with the depth of this squad. They’re coming off a year where they finished second in the Eastern Conference, and they’re only about to get better. Their forward depth is staggering. From Max Pacioretty (among the league’s top even-strength goal scorers over the past few years), to Tomas Plekanec (he of multiple 20+ goal seasons), to Brian Gionta (he of multiple 20+ goal seasons, including a 48-goal campaign), to Danny Briere (he of multiple 30+ goal seasons), to David Desharnais (on pace for 20 in a shortened season last year), to the 24-year-old Lars Eller (who’s been close to 20 and started with two last night), to Rene Bourque (he of multiple 20+ goal seasons), and on down to young super rookies like Alex Galchenyuk (27 points in 48 rookie games) and Brendan Gallagher (15 goals in 44 rookie games). I mean, isn’t that ridiculous? You can basically put talent like that in any order and offense is going to happen. They’re supported by workhorses like Brandon Prust, Travis Moen and Ryan White when things need to get gritty.
They’ve got a world class goaltender in Carey Price, who has a real shot of backstopping Team Canada in the upcoming Olympics, and he plays behind the defending Norris Trophy winner in the form of hard-shooting, hard-hitting, hard-playing PK Subban. Andrei Markov is also on the back-end and he’s healthy: the last time we’ve said that about him, he put up 58 and 64 points in full-seasons. They’ve got toughness in Alexei Emelin, they’ve got reliability in Josh Gorges…they kind of have it all. There’s no reason to think this won’t be one of the best teams in hockey this season.
The Canadiens are going to be bad
Welcome! Below is a bit of an overview previewing the upcoming NHL season. We’ll tell you about the new divisions, the new playoff format, the new rule changes, who’s got new jerseys, which players are worth watching, which teams are in outdoor games and more. Let’s dive in.
The clock has finally flipped to the set time your parents said was an acceptable hour to wake them up for Christmas morning, and Santa has made a visit. It is finally time, and you’ve waited so long. Hockey is here.
OR, maybe you hate Christmas or belong to a different religion and today is just a really great day. Maybe the metaphor is completely unnecessary.
This is a bit of a different year in the NHL. We’re coming out of a lockout-shortened season that saw the Chicago Blackhawks claim their second Cup in the past four years, which requires absolutely no asterisk – the playoffs weren’t shortened, that’s for damn sure – but it didn’t tell us everything we needed to know about all the teams, what with the small sample size and all. Would Columbus have snuck into playoffs with more time? Could the Flyers have climbed up and in by game 82? Would the Capitals have caught Montreal for the two seed? Would Anaheim have slid down the standings? You get the idea.
To go with the heightened uncertainty, this season is an Olympic year, which means there’s no All-Star Game, but actual All-Stars will be increasingly taxed by additional high-tempo games. That means Columbus, denied an All-Star Game in 2013 by the lockout, is again denied it by the Olympics. They’ll get theirs in 2015, barring a meteor or whatever.
As you get set to watch tonight’s action – Toronto at Montreal, Washtington at Chicago, and Winnipeg at Edmonton – you might as well get to know some important things about the upcoming season.
Yup – Detroit and Columbus have moved to the Eastern Conference for their (and their fans’) convenience, while the Winnipeg Jets have gone to the West. That means the Conferences are uneven (16 in the East, 14 in the West), which is completely weird, and raises questions about expansion (hello Seattle?).