Thursday, March 11, 2010

A look into the injury-free crystal ball

No team likes using injuries as an excuse, but there are several around the league this year where that factor simply cannot be ignored to explain results.

The Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings will immediately come to mind, but the Montreal Canadiens are right up there when it comes to having key players go down to injury for extended periods of time.

Which got me wondering, how would the Habs top-10 scoring leaders look if everyone had played all 68 games up to now? Based on their per game averages for this season, it gives us this list (totals are rounded down, because you can't score 0.46 of a goal, and change in points from actual stats are in brackets):

1. Tomas Plekanec: 19 G, 44 A, 63 pts (even)

2. Michael Cammalleri: 31 G, 26 A, 57 pts (plus-11)

3. Brian Gionta: 29 G, 23 A, 52 pts (plus-16)

4. Scott Gomez: 12 G, 40 A, 52 pts (plus-2)

5. Benoit Pouliot: 38 G, 13 A, 51 pts (plus-28)

6. Andrei Markov: 8 G, 41 A, 49 pts (plus-26)

7. Andrei Kostitsyn: 18 G, 19 A, 37 pts (plus-12)

8. Marc-Andre Bergeron: 13 G, 23 A, 36 pts (plus-8)

9. Glen Metropolit: 16 G, 14 A, 30 pts (plus-2)

10. Roman Hamrlik: 6 G, 21 A, 27 pts (plus-2)

Benoit Pouliot's numbers are based only on his games played with the Canadiens, which is a bit misleading, but it's my blog and I'll do what I want to. Basically, the only difference between this and the real top-10 list is that Pouliot is in and Jaroslav Spacek is out. But the positions of players are obviously vastly changed.

An injury-free Canadiens season would have produced, at this point, five 50-point scorers and two 30-goal scorers. Though I didn't do the same exercise for the entire league, there are only three teams right now that have as many as four 50-point scorers: Chicago, Vancouver and Washington. 

In Chicago's case, you would add Marian Hossa to the list if you did the same exercise, giving them five. Vancouver would be unchanged, because only Daniel Sedin has gone down for the Canucks up front this season, and he still has 64 points. Washington would add two more 50-point guys to the list in Tomas Fleischmann and Mike Knuble, both of whom missed 12 games, and that would give the Caps six 50-point guys. Still, that puts the Habs roster in pretty good company.

San Jose and Washington are the only teams with two 30-goal scorers, and only nine other teams even have one (counting the Thrashers and Ilya Kovalchuk's 31 goals scored in that uniform).

Basically, this is a fantasy world I've created here because it's unreasonable to think you'll go through an entire season without a single injury to a key player, even though it did happen here two years ago. But what I wanted to show is just what kind of team this might be with everyone healthy, something that could be coming up in a couple of weeks.

What you get is a team with great scoring balance and great goaltending. One that I wouldn't particularly want to face in the first round of the playoffs.


John MacKinnon said...

There are so many things wrong with the Edmonton Oilers, one hesitates to bring up injuries, but the fact remains they have piled up a ridiculous 378 man games lost this dreadful season.
That includes a half-season each for goalie Nikolai Khabibulin and Ales Hemsky and 30 games for still-useful winger Mike Comrie.

Arpon Basu said...

Hi John,
Long time no see, good to see you reading the blog. Yes, your point is fair, and I think there are a lot of teams out there that can make the same complaint. Losing Hemsky for the year really hurt the Oilers, probably the most devastating injury we've seen in the league. The purpose of doing what I did was to show how Montreal may look once the playoffs start and they are healthy, which looks like it might be the case in the next couple of weeks or so. The one upside for the Oilers that I see is the likelihood of grabbing a top pick out of this injury-plagued season. Suddenly, with Hemsky, Penner, Cogliano, Gagner and Hall/Seguin, things are looking up. Except, of course, in nets. But that's another matter.

Tony said...

Hi Arpon,
I like reading your blog - I think you have a lot of good articles. In this particular case I don't really agree with the math, cause you cannot simply multiply the points. The reson for that is that your fellow players will also "eat" some of you points cause you only have max 3 players scoring points from a goal. Also there is the fact that a team may sit back when leading. It looks like the habs would have to beat team like Boston 10-1 to gain that kind of points u mention. The idea is good though. Keep up the good writing. Thanks.