Monday, November 09, 2009

Casualty List

Today’s number… 74

Perusing the listing of injuries, that is how many players are identified as being on injured reserve. Only one of the NHL’s 30 teams has no player on injured reserve – the New York Rangers, but watching the way Chris Drury staggered off the ice the other night after taking Curtis Glencross’ shoulder to his head on his first shift in a 3-1 loss to Calgary, the “injured reserve” notation is probably a formality. Drury will miss some time.

120 players are on the injury list. The number of players on injured reserve range from the zero that the Rangers have to the six from Vancouver on the list. Montreal and Edmonton have five apiece.

Is this abnormal? Well, we don’t know, but with all the marquee players or critical cogs going down – Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc Savard, Johan Franzen, Sheldon Souray, David Booth, Andrei Markov, Shea Weber, Sergei Gonchar, Daniel Sedin, and Alex Ovechkin, among others, it sure has the look of the NHL’s version of a pandemic.

Is it merely the odd concurrence of events that might happen once in many seasons, or does it signal a fundamental change in the game that might lead to the sort of “injury report” that the NFL publishes on a weekly basis?

It hardly seems to matter. In a perverse way, the competitive balance of the league seems to be preserved in all of this – 13 teams have at least three players on IR, but there are disturbing elements, nonetheless. No fewer than a dozen players are reported injured from concussions or “concussion-like symptoms.” 15 more are listed with various breaks and fractures. 16 are listed as a result of various surgeries.

This is something that shows no indication of going away; more than 50 of the players on the list were added this month. As much as anything else going on down on the ice, this might be the biggest story unfolding in the NHL this season.