Detroit Red Wings Should Prepare For More Injuries This Season, Not Less


It really doesn’t feel like last season is over yet does it?

Five pre-season games down (aka the games that aren’t supposed to be all that serious) and the injury bug continues to bite at the Detroit Red Wings. Various injuries have plagued the team thus far, including rookie Anthony Mantha (fractured tibia), Magic Man Pavel Datsyuk (separated shoulder), Darren Helm (broke nose), defensive prospect Ryan Sproul (strained shoulder), established Messiah Gustav Nyquist (knee) and Brendan Smith (hip flexor). Oh yeah, and Jonathan Ericsson (hip/groin) This doesn’t even start to take into account Daniel Alfredsson, who’s back is bothering him so much he may retire.

That’s right, the Red Wings’ roster looks like a goddamn Monty Python skit, and they’ve yet to play a regular season game.

In this alternate universe, Mantha gets to be the guy complaining of a fractured tibia. And Mike Babcock could make a great sergeant!

The continuing injury bug has some Detroit Red Wings fans wanting to consume a glass of bleach before the season even starts (and by ‘some fans’ I mean me). It has a lot of fans asking why. Why so many injuries to this team for so long? They’ve yet to have a healthy roster since 2009 at the least, and at a certain point one has to look at the common denominator. Is there something wrong with the medical staff? Do the other teams in the NHL have some sort of secret that Detroit just sort of missed out on? Ken Holland said that this was addressed in the off season, but so far there seems to be evidence to the contrary.

To say that the medical staff is negligent is a pretty big accusation, so I’ll stop short of directly accusing them of such, but you have to wonder how many groin injuries had to happen last season before things were called into question. Granted, the decision to leave a player out of a preseason game isn’t nearly the same as the decision to leave them out of a real one. I’m sure we’re all hoping that we don’t end up inadvertedly watching Grand Rapids Griffins games this year.

The sad truth is, however, this is exactly what we should expect for the coming season. Just considering the two big injuries last year- Pavel Datsyuk’s knee, and Henrick Zetterberg’s back. There’s a wide variety of knee aliments, and most of them don’t exactly disappear overnight. If you want to see what a knee injury can do to a player overtime, look back at how Steve Yzerman did post-2002. There was concern he wouldn’t play at the alumni showdown before the Winter Classic. Yzerman even shockingly said he hadn’t even skated since he retired. Not once. And watching him play on New Year’s Eve of last year, it was obvious why. The years of wear and tear had really manifested themselves, and he didn’t look like he was the same skater at all. It’s worth pointing out that Yzerman starting having knee issues around age 35, and the closest he came to a full-season after that was a 75 game effort in 2003-2004. He barely cracked 50 games every other year, and a year after winning his last cup he was limited to 16 games. Pavel Datsyuk is 36…

Age isn’t just a number at this point for the Red Wings’ two biggest stars. At this point it really starts to take a toll on one’s body. The decade-plus of hits from Chris Prongers and Shea Webers really starts to catch up with players. Injury recovery becomes less about hard work and determination and more about how much is left in the tank. Henrick Zetterberg faced back issues all of last season, finally revealing he had a herniated disc, having surgery, and rushing back to lose to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs. Back problems, like the knee, are difficult to rest, and have a tendency to become chronic. You may recognize ‘herniated disc’ as the condition that Ilya Kovalchuk fought through during the Devils’ 2002 playoff run. Kovalchuk pulled this off at 29. One can wonder if Zetterberg can do it at 33.

These two examples, along with the lack of any real change from management and the piling up of injuries at the first sign of action give me little reason to expect anything to be different this year from last year. Sure, the Red Wings pulled it off last year. But was that due to the Red Wings fighting and winning? Or due to the Maple Leafs imploding? The Atlantic Division got a lot better this year, and while the Wings can be competitive if they ‘stay healthy’ the truth is they haven’t been healthy for years. So buckle up Wings Fans, this could be it.