TCL Top Ten Pre-Season Injuries
The NHL pre-season is finally upon us, and we all know what that means!
For starters, the new hockey season is right around the corner. Soon, we will all be able to tap right back into our beer and pizza funds, reconnect with friends and frequent sports bars and restaurants to watch our favorite teams get back to action.
But more importantly, it also means that the NHL fantasy hockey season is back! While many drafts and office pools have already taken place, with several weeks left until the puck finally drops on October 7th, there will still be many to go, with many trades and roster moves to consider before the start of the season.
Naturally, the main concern for any fantasy team owner is injuries. A player may be no good to you if he isn't producing, but an injured player is just a gaping hole on any fantasy line-up. And even with training camps only getting under way in the last couple of days, there are already a considerable amount of injuries to report. Some lingering carry-overs from last season, some new, and some that remain a mystery to even the most savvy fantasy players.
With that said, it might be useful to look at the injuries making headlines from around the league, as this first week of training camps comes to a close. Therefore, here is the TCL Ten edition of training camp injuries!
- Pierre-Marc Bouchard – MIN: Bouchard missed 81 games last season with a concussion, and while he is optimistic for a return, no timetable has been set. Stay away from him as his career might unfortunately be over.
- Toni Lydman – ANA: One of the major acquisitions for the Anaheim Ducks was looking to have a career year with his new team, but a mysterious “double vision” ailment could keep him out of the line-up. Keep an eye on him, especially his powerplay time, but stay away until certain.
- Daymond Langkow – CGY: Langkow was once a legitimate #1 center in this NHL. But just like the flames, he has considerably dropped off in the last couple of seasons, and fractured vertebrae in his neck might spell the end of a once promising career. He might be an interesting sleeper upon his return, but stay far away for now.
- Paul Ranger – TBL The Lightning have gone through many changes and many improvements over the summer. One issue, however, has remained unresolved as the season approaches, and that is the status of defenseman Paul Ranger. Ranger missed most of last season due to "personal reasons" that have not been made public, and GM Steve Yzerman said earlier in the month that the door is open for a return, but the once valuable fantasy asset's status remains unknown, and should not even be considered for any fantasy pool.
10. SAMI SALO (D) – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
Sami Salo’s 15-year career could be coming to an end in the near future. The 36-year-old is no stranger to injury, missing 14 games due to 4 different injuries this past season. A 5th was incurred over the summer, during a floor hockey game. Salo suffered a torn Achilles tendon that required surgery. The aging defenseman’s status with the Vancouver Canucks was already in question, with Andrew Alberts, Dan Hamhuis and Keith Ballard already taking up three spots in the top six. With Alex Edler, Chris Ehrhoff and Kevin Bieksa all holding roster spots as well, and more waiting in the ranks, Salo could have a hard time breaking into the line-up when ready. Stay away from him in drafts.
9. RICK DIPIETRO (G) – NEW YORK ISLANDERS
Surprised the former 1st overall pick made the list? We didn’t think so. Rick DiPietro says he feels great and most assume he will be ready on opening night, but his much maligned, injury-riddled past will always make him a risk, no matter if he’s ready on opening night. In one draft, I was faced with the decision of drafting either DiPietro or Dwayne Roloson. I went with Roloson, and DiPietro went undrafted, as he will in most leagues. But you should definitely keep an eye on his status, and if he has a good game or two, he might definitely be worth a waiver pick-up as an extra goaltender.
8 FILIP KUBA (D) – OTTAWA SENATORS
The Ottawa Senators were the recipients of some bad news last week, as defenseman Filip Kuba caught a rut in the ice on the first day of training camp, breaking his leg. It was, however, a “clean” break and will not require surgery, but it will still keep him out of the line-up for 5 weeks or more. This is bad news fro the Sens, who were relying on Kuba to have chemistry with Sergei Gonchar, which could have meant good news for owners of this defenseman in fantasy leagues. I myself had the defenseman in two of my yahoo leagues. If you have him, drop him, but don’t hesitate to pick him back up when he’s cleared to play.
7. CHRIS PRONGER (D) – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS
Chris Pronger is another in a long list of players who had off-season knee surgery. Pronger has been skating daily at training camp, and while he is questionable for the season opener next month, don’t hesitate to pick up one of the league’s premiere defensemen if you have the chance, as he shouldn’t miss a beat upon his return.
6. MARCO STURM (F) – BOSTON BRUINS
Last May, Marco Sturm suffered an injury that has been making its way around the NHL lately. The Bruins forward tore BOTH his MCL and his ACL ligaments in his right knee, and needed surgery in May to repair muscles that he claims he “pretty much lost”. Minimum projections had him on the shelf for at least six months. The earliest you might see him back in Boston’s line-up is mid-November, and that might be a little optimistic, as he hasn’t put on skates yet. Sturm is an underrated fantasy asset, having scored 20+ goals ever season since 2001-02. He is a career +66 and even being low on the Bruins’ depth chart, a full season for Sturm would have meant another 20 goals. Keep an eye on him, and pick him up when reports start to indicate an imminent return.
5.JOFFREY LUPUL (F) – ANAHEIM DUCKS
Joffrey Lupul was considered one of the centerpieces in the Chris Pronger trade from last summer. The 26-year-old former 1st round pick was actually drafted by the Ducks in 2002, before being traded to Edmonton after his rookie and sophomore campaigns for, interestingly, Chris Pronger. Finally, he found himself back in Anaheim last season, where he was expected to build on a 25-goal season from the year before. Unfortunately, his season was cut short after only 10 goals and 23 games with the Ducks, thanks to a season-ending blood infection in his back, which required surgery. As it turns out, Lupul isn't out of the woods just yet, having suffered yet another setback to his back injury. Lupul hasn't trained in a month, and GM Bob Murray says he won't be able to start until he's off antibiotics and re-evaluated (which happens to be this week). He's almost guaranteed to miss the start of the season, and should not be drafted in any pool. But even with a full line-up of forwards in Anaheim, Lupul will be an asset once he’s ready to return, and could be a sleeper pick once 100% healthy. Keep an eye on him.
4. ALEX BURROWS (F) – VANCOUVER CANUCKS
The Vancouver Canucks will be without their leading goalscorer to start the season, as winger Alex Burrows is still recovering from off-season shoulder injury. Originally pegged for a late-November, early-December return, Burrows is apparently ahead of schedule, and even did some skating on the first day of training camp.The 29-year-old Quebec native followed up on a breakout year in 2008-09, where he scored 28 goals, with an even better campaign in 2009-10, scoring 35 goals in a season where the Canucks were without Daniel Sedin for a considerable portion of the season. Expectations are again high for the Canucks and Burrows, and despite the injury, he is definitely a player that should be protected until he is ready to return. Save an IR spot for him if you get him, and take the chance, as he will perform and score when he comes back.
3. MARC SAVARD (C) – BOSTON BRUINS
The Bruins will also likely start the season without center Marc Savard. Savard signed a lucrative 7-year contract extension last year, one that was the subject of much debate around the league, especially with the Kovalchuk saga over the past summer. Savard missed half of last season with several injuries, but the most significant was the concussion he suffered at the beginning of March, at the hands of Matt Cooke. Savard was brought back into the line-up for game 1 of the second round of the playoffs, where he scored the game-winner in a 5-4 barn burner, paying immediate dividends. We all know what would go on to happen to the Bruins in that series, and in retrospect, he may have been rushed back to the line-up, as it seems he is suffering from post-concussion syndrome, something the Bruins are all-too familiar with another center, Patrice Bergeron. While the Bruins are saying they are optimistic about Savard’s recovery, we all know this could already mean a lost season for Savard. On a positive note, this makes Tyler Seguin a much more valuable fantasy asset, but if you own Marc Savard, pray that yahoo puts him on the IR. If you haven’t drafted yet, be very cautious when it comes to drafting him, as his status is still very far from being assured.
2. ANDREI MARKOV (D) – MONTREAL CANADIENS
In what seems to be turning into a regular occurrence, star Habs’ defenseman Andrei Markov finds himself back on the IR. Just like Marko Sturm, Markov suffered a playoff-ending knee injury in game 1 of round 2 versus Pittsburgh, at (again) the hands of Matt Cooke. The torn ligament was surgically repaired, which would imply a six-month recovery period, but the Canadiens remained coy all throughout the playoffs and the summer, suggesting to fans that Markov could return earlier than expected. We’re better off hedging our bets and assuming the worst, which would be a mid-November return at the earlier. Even Markov played games with the media, saying he’d "like to come back tomorrow, but it's not possible yet.” On his possible return: "Maybe another month. Maybe more, maybe less." So, let’s stick to November. He should be on Yahoo’s IR list when the season starts, and should definitely be picked up and protected, even with the injury, as history has shown that Markov generally has strong runs upon returning from major injuries, and is always a valuable fantasy asset, when healthy. Those last two works, however, might be key.
1. JORDAN STAAL (F) – PITTSBURGH PENGUINS
Number one on our list is one of last year’s Selke nominees, Jordan Staal. Staal was expected to have a breakout season on the top six with the Pens, his first permanent gig on a top line. As TCL’s Quinn Mell-Cobb pointed out last week, the injury likely means that the expected combination of Evgeni Malki and Sidney Crosby will likely be put on hold to start the season. Staal suffered a lacerated tendon in his big toe in last year’s playoffs, at the hands of PK Subban, but was rushed back into the line-up to finish the series, which may have turned out to be a mistake. Even though Staal isn’t expected to miss more than a few games, the injury is significant because it changes the entire chemistry of the Pens’ top six. In Montreal, the Canadiens have the defensive depth and experience to temporarily replace Andrei Markov, in guys such as Subban and Roman Hamrlik. In Boston, Marc Savard will be replaced by Tyler Seguin. And the Ducks and Canucks will have no trouble making up for the loss of Lupul and Burrows, provided their prompt returns. But an already thin top six in Pittsburgh means another October of experimenting and uncertainty for the Pens, and it could have a worse effect than first considered, if Staal’s progress is slower than we think. While you shouldn’t hesitate in drafting Staal if you can, the effect of this injury on his production should be questioned.
Which injury is the most significant, for their teams and for fantasy leagues? Vote here and make your own lists in the comments below.