If you're a Penguins fan you must be asking "when will this end?"
The injury bug has been rife through this roster since the team moved into the new building. Is there a cause? Is there anything the Penguins can do to reduce their man games lost? Is there a correlation to training patterns, or are they just damn unlucky?
There are conditions you just cannot prepare for; blood clots, league wide mumps, and cancer are high on that list. The Penguins have had to deal with three players (Vokoun, Letang and most recently Dupuis) going on blood thinners. It helped bring Vokoun's career to and end unfortunately.
Broken bones are another that you cannot really train to avoid, or are they?
One of the most important components in developing an athlete's physical capabilities is the development of strength, strength is the base of all sports.
It is where power is developed from, but it also helps with bone density. There is a reason resistance training is recommended for those over 55, it helps avoid brittle bones and the onset of osteoporosis.
Where does this fit in with the Penguins? Bennett, Scuderi, and most recently Kunitz have broken bones that have kept them off the ice for substantial time. For Bennett his brittle bones in his wrist my have cost him a couple of million dollars over the next few years. Would better bone density helped either of these three players not breaking their bones?
- Bennett - Contact injury on the wrist
- Scuderi - Broken leg/ankle from an awkward landing
- Kunitz - Broken foot via puck
You look at this list and well, not a lot you can do to help these specific areas.
Scuderi has been the whipping boy of Penguins fans and the advanced stats crowd since returning from his broken leg last year, you could argue it has been since he resigned.
One of my major concerns with the Penguins as an organisation is the increase in man games missed since moving into Consol Energy Center.
2010-11 - 348 (7th) in comparison Boston lost 105 (29th).
2011-12 - 365 (6th) in comparison Los Angeles lost 168 (27th).
2012-13 - 78 (27th) in comparison Chicago lost 94 (21st).
2013-14 - 529 (1st) in comparison Los Angeles lost 100 (23rd).
2014-15 - 176 (5th) in comparison Columbus lost 254 (1st) (current to 10th January 2015).
The only season where the Stanley Cup winner had more man games lost than the Penguins was the 2013 Chicago Blackhawks and that was the shortened 48 game season.
All of the Cup winners have been in the bottom 3rd of man games lost, it is no coincidence that the Penguins made it to their first Eastern Conference Finals since winning the Cup in 09 when they were in the bottom 6th of the league in man games lost.
Yes it is important who the players are that miss games, Nick Spaling missing 20 games is not going to hurt the team as much as say Patric Hornqvist, however the need for players to 'carry the load' does take it's toll.
There are a few trends that are different from this year to last year.
- Crosby and Malkin are playing less per game
- Sutter and Comeau are playing a lot more than last year.
- Mike Johnston is riding Kris Letang in all situations, playing over 3 minutes more than the next player (Ehrhoff).
- As good as Paul Martin is, him playing away from Letang has effected his ability to push play.
- Sutter and Scuderi get killed in possession, but they are better this year than last.
The time on ice trends are important for this roster. Apart from Letang the coach is not 'wearing out' anyone on the roster. Letang has been pushing possession better this season with the increased ice time however, so why change what is working.
To bring this back to underlying concern if you are a Penguins fan, players have had their ice time changed this season and the team is still getting injured.
Here in Australia there has been a big push into using sports science in cricket. The national team has had a great run of success over the last 5 years because of this. However over the last 12 months many key players are starting to break down and many people are asking why?
One statement that often comes from the 'old school' commentators is "they spend too much time in the gym and not enough time on the field training for the cricket".
I kind of looked at the comment as yet another ex player not moving with the times and being 'anti-progression' in the improvement of the sport.
Then I thought about the Penguins and the immediate change in their facilities and the immediate increase in injuries. 182 man games were lost (20th) in the final year at The Igloo, just within the range to expect a good playoff run.
With the new facilities, have the Penguins taken too much of the in season strength training away from on ice movements?
Remember one of the hardest things to maintain throughout a season is a hockey players' baseline strength. A loss of strength leads to a loss of power, so it is a very fine line between getting enough lifting in and injuring a player because they are fatigued.
The Maatta situation is the most disappointing for me. In my opinion he came back too early from his rehabilitation post surgery, without the cancer and mumps Maatta's play had already started to slide because of that shoulder.
This team needs to ensure players are healthy before they return.
Not 'healthy enough'.
Not 'close to 100%'.
Beau Bennett has proven to be very breakable throughout his career and to have Bennett back on the ice 10 days earlier than expected worries me.
Blake Comeau and Partic Hornqvist have had their recovery time extended to 3 weeks from the writing of this article. That would be the start of the 2nd week in February, any earlier and I would suggest both will not be ready to go 100% for the rest of the season.
Every player is going to want to return to the ice, especially in the situation of a team being down a lot of players, they want to return to help the team. Returning earlier helps no one, Crosby in my opinion should have had wrist surgery as soon as he broke it last year. It is hard to order someone to have surgery or to miss a couple more games to fully heal, but I think the players in this organisation have proven they will 'put the team first' before their own health and in the end it makes the team worse.
If the Penguins go back and look at their processes from 2009-10 to the end of this season, they should be able to find their own trends within and fix/correct/change what they have been going through.
As a Penguins fan, I hope they cure this injury bug.
Thanks for reading!
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