Injuries happen in sports. If you play a sport you are going to need to get used to the fact that at some point you are going to get hurt, and possibly get hurt badly. There is at least a couple of NHL teams that know that well this season, one of those teams is the Washington Capitals.
Make no mistake about it, the amount of Injuries the Capitals have had to face this season is at the high end. Not only have the Capitals received a lot of injuries this season, those injuries have happened to some key players.
Backstrom, Wilson, Oshie, Carlson, Kuemper, even Orlov when he was still with the team all missed a good chunk of games. Some of those chunks being bigger than others. Others have also missed a handful of games. Such as Milano and of course Ovechkin who has missed a few due to injury, and others due to personal reasons.
Injuries happen, and there really is not a thing in the world you can do about it.
However, when a team, or when people around a team start to use them as an excuse, that’s where things can start to get a little weird. Yes, all teams face injuries, and some face injuries more than others. Some can get through those injuries a lot better than others though. Why is that?
Why is it that the Washington Capitals have had to deal with a ton of injuries and at the time of writing this sit fourteen points out of a playoff spot? Yet another team that has had a mind numbing number of injuries, that being the Colorado Avalanche, they currently lead their division.
The Avalanche have been very banged up this year as well. Go ahead and click this link to see the injuries that team was facing at one point this season. To sum up, at one point it says the Avs were missing five of the top six forwards and two of the top six defenders. Some names you will easily know that were all out at the same time were MacKinnon, Landeskog, Nichushkin, Manson and Byram.
All of those guys have missed some time. MacKinnon missed 11 games. Nichushkin has played in 50 of 79 games. Manson has played in just 27 games this season, Byram just 39 games. Cale Makar, one of the very best defensemen in the game right now has also missed time, playing in 60 of a possible 79 games. To add on to all of that their captain Landeskog has not played a single game this season.
Those are just some of the injuries Colorado has had to deal with. Yet here we are. With three games to go they’re 49-24-6 and are in first place in their division by two points. The Capitals on the other hand are 34-36-9 and twenty-nine points out of a division playoff spot, and thirty-two points out of first place.
Another team I always think of battling through injuries is the Pittsburgh Penguins. One, that team always seems like they have injury issues, which is weird. Two, go back to the 2010-11 season. Both Crosby and Malkin missed the last two plus months of that season. While they did hit a skid late that season they still finished March and April of that year 12-4-2. They also took a very tough Lightning team to seven games in the first round. That same Lightning team would go on to sweep the Capitals in the second round that year.
You can blame injuries, or you can get the team to fight through them. This Capitals team, apparently could not fight through them.
It’s not like this Capitals team didn’t or doesn’t have very good players. A lot of those good players were playing at the same time as well. Ovechkin, Kuznetsov, Oshie, Carlson, Kuemper, All of these guys have played together a lot this season. Then Backstrom and Wilson came back and the team got a little healthier, and they played worse.
Since Backstrom and Wilson returned on January 8th the Washington Capitals are the worst team in the NHL. Since then they are 12-22-3. That, obviously, is worse than the Sharks, it’s worse than the Ducks, it’s worse than the Blue Jackets and it’s worse than the Canadiens. The last being a team the Caps have lost to recently.
The Capitals have made changes to their roster in that time. They shipped up to Boston (woah, oh, oh) Orlov and Hathaway, and they also traded away Lars Eller and Marcus Johansson. They did get a nice player in Rasmus Sandin from Toronto though.
Instead of blaming the injuries though, maybe we do blame the roster, or the construction of said roster.
This is an old team. I have said a lot in the last few seasons, the older they get, the more you need to hold your breath when it comes to injuries. Injuries to older players are going to be harder to fight off. Most of the key guys on this Capitals team are over 30 and even worse, over 35.
If you’re going to blame injuries you also need to consider this. This is a team whose management was prepared to go into this season without both Backstrom and Wilson. They were possibly prepared to go without Backstrom for the entire season. At least that was what some thought was a real possibility before the season started.
Without these two key players they did alright too. They did stumble out of the gates, but they recovered. They started the year 9-11-3 but then went 12-3-1 over their next sixteen games. After that 12-3-1 stretch they were third in the division.
At the end of that great run the Capitals lost John Carlson to a long term injury. That for sure hurt the team. But, again, not long after they get Backstrom and Wilson back. And, once again, since then they have been a pretty awful team.
Carlson is a very important player for the Capitals. But even in his absence the Caps can ice a very good looking team. Ovechkin, Backstrom, Kuznetsov, Wilson, Oshie, Strome, Sandin, Fehervary, Jensen, Kuemper, I have probably left some out. That is a good set of players. That is more than what Colorado has had it sounds like.
The argument I’m making here, with that group of players, is if losing Carlson is the thing that sinks your team, one player, then your team is not built well.
That is also my main argument. This current Capitals team is not built well.
This is a team relying on old players to not get injured and not take a step back. They have gotten injured, and some of them took a step back. They relied on guys to step up and potentially have career years in doing so. They did not step up, they did not have career years. Strome being an exception.
Are injuries a reason why the Capitals have struggled? Sure. But it is a reason, not the reason. This is a roster with some issues. Those issues being underperforming players, and having to rely on guys that you shouldn’t rely on.