Every team has injuries. How many times have you heard that line? It is true, but the good teams, and even the not so good teams who make the playoffs, are lucky enough that their injuries happen to role players who can be replaced or in sequence so that no two key players are out at the same time.
The Canucks went from 101 points in 2014-2015 to 75 points last season and it is no coincidence that Alex Edler played in 74 games in the good season and only 52 last year. Chris Tanev also missed 13 games. The Minnesota Wild made the playoffs with 87 points and got the last wild card spot in the Western Conference. Ryan Suter played all 82 games as did Mikko Koivu. Zach Parise missed 12 games, but Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederrietter and Charlie Coyle never missed a game. In the East, Detroit got the final wild card spot with 93 points. They had seven guys who played more than 80 games, including Henrik Zetterburg who played all 82. The Washington Capitals won the President's Trophy and had 12 players suit up for more than 75 games. Bo Horvat and Daniel Sedin were the only Canucks to play every game in 15-16.
In training camp I said if the Canucks stay healthy they would make the playoffs. Healthy is the key word. In the first five games the Canucks had their full line-up. They went 4-0-1. In game five Alex Burrows, Derek Dorsett and Chris Tanev got hurt. Tanev played the next night in Anaheim and has missed all but one game since. Jannik Hansen was off to a great start and was averaging over 16-and-a-half minutes per game. He got hurt in game number 12. Alex Edler broke a finger in Colorado on the weekend and he will be lost for at least six weeks. Chris Tanev was playing more than 20 minutes a game and Edler almost 24. They were the number one pairing and whenever possible played against the other team's first lines. They both played on the power play and also killed penalties. How do you replace these two?
I always like looking at ice times and where each player fits. There is 360 minutes to divide up. The goalie gets 60. The defence get 120 and the 12 forwards get 180. The top 2 defencemen usually get 22-24 minutes the next pair 20-22 and the third pair get 15-17. The tricky part comes when you have to use your third pairing an extra 4 shifts a period against the other team's second line instead of their third or fourth line. Your second pairing now has to play against the top lines and fill in on the power play and penalty kill. What would happen if Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook were hurt at the same time? They eat up almost 50 minutes of ice time. Their power play would not look as daunting with Michal Rozsival and Gustav Forsling on the points. In LA, Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez play almost 50 minutes. Would Tom Gilbert and Derek Forbort be able to fill in?
The Canucks had the youngest defence in the league on the ice in their game against the Wild. They played well and used that youthful enthusiasm to register a win. They made mistakes sure, but they also played with speed and flair.
Don't tell them they can't make the playoffs.