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5-ON-5 | Countdown to 2016-17 Part 2

by Meg Tilley / Edmonton Oilers

As part of edmontonoilers.com’s countdown to 2016-17, we will be publishing a 5-on-5 series. For the five weeks leading up to rookie camp, we take a look at five questions for this Oilers team heading into the new season. The series ends September 15, as the Oilers rookies report for duty and our pre-season coverage begins.

4. Can they stay healthy?

Nine.

That was the total number of Oilers players that managed to stay off the injury list throughout the entire 2015-16 season.

With the exception of a flu bug that made its way through the locker room — first in early November at home and then late in February on the road — nine players managed to stay physically healthy throughout the Farewell Rexall Place season. 

It’s a known fact that athletes — professional or amateur — risk injury every time they train, practice and compete. How a pro athlete mentally approaches the spectrum of injuries they could endure each season has a direct correlation as to how they are able to sustain or avoid them.

If a player is overly concerned about getting injured, they may play timid, and that’s when there can be an increased risk of injury. But that is also why there is motivation for strength and conditioning off the ice. Not only does it help lower a player’s chance for injury, but it also prepares their bodies for recovery should they sustain an injury that sidelines them for any undetermined length of time. 

According to WebMD.com, some of the most common sports injuries a professional athlete can sustain are: ankle sprain, groin pull, hamstring strain, shin splints, knee injury (ACL tear), knee injury (patellofemoral syndrome — an injury resulting from the repetitive movement of your kneecap against your thigh bone) and tennis elbow.

Last season, the Oilers were forced to cope with 368 man games lost due to injury, compared to the 2014-15 campaign when the man games were 260.

Oscar Klefbom pictured above. Photo by Getty Images.
But if you look closely, and dissect each player’s injury, 165 of those man games lost during the season were due to three uncalculated incidents — Connor McDavid’s broken clavicle (37 games lost), Oscar Klefbom’s upper and lower body injuries (52 games lost), Ryan Nugent-Hopkins’ broken hand (21 games lost) — and a hip injury that prevented Andrew Ference (55 games lost) from returning for the rest of the season. They were, at the end of the day, injuries that were largely unpredictable and unpreventable.

And let’s not forget the shoulder injury that Jordan Eberle sustained in a pre-season game that prevented him from starting the season and forced him to miss the first 13 games.

Prior to Klefbom’s maladies that prevented him from returning for the remainder of the season, the Oilers were 14-15-2. With eight games left before the New Year, Klefbom’s absence was felt almost immediately as the Oilers closed out those last eight games with a 1-6-1 record.

From the start of Klefbom’s absence on December 15, 2015, the Oilers finished the regular season 17-28-6 (31-43-8 overall). A number of factors went into the team’s performance, but losing a key player on the back end didn’t help.

McDavid’s first season was much shorter than fans — and I’m sure he, himself — anticipated. Though he only played 12.5 games before breaking his clavicle midway through the Oilers November 3 game against the Philadelphia Flyers, the 2015 No. 1 draft pick was already averaging a point per game, having accumulated 12 points (5G, 7A) and earning Rookie of the Month for October.

Returning from injury, Connor McDavid scores his first goal against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club.

His 13-week absence was surely felt across the board as Edmonton continued the season without their star centre. But upon his return on February 2, McDavid seemed determined to make up for lost time, contributing one goal and two assists to the Oilers 5-1 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets — and he had only just begun.

At the end of the season, McDavid had amassed a staggering 36 points — now averaging a little more than a point per game — in the remaining 32 regular season games. He capped off the year with a total of 48 points (16G, 32A) in 45 games, earned Rookie of the Month for the rest of the season, and a Calder Trophy finalist nod.

Had McDavid not sustained an injury that required a long-term recovery, the Oilers 2015-16 season outcome may have reflected something entirely different, but there’s no way of knowing for sure — though his dedication and discipline to make an impact upon his return wasn’t overlooked!

It’s next to impossible to say assertively that yes, the Oilers will in fact stay healthy and avoid injury this season — some injuries are unpreventable and it’s an inevitable part of the sport.

Last season, the Oilers saw a few key contributors, including a Calder Trophy finalist and one of their best defencemen, miss significant time to injury. As we move forward into 2016-17, staying relatively healthy will be one of the key factors in determining the team's success.
 

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