As the autopsy on the Maple Leafs’ schizophrenic campaign kicks into high gear, you’re bound to hear Toronto players, management and apologists lean heavily on injuries as the prime excuse for another lost season.
“Why, we had to play without Bryan McCabe for weeks on end!,” they’ll say, conveniently ignoring the fact that, prior to breaking his hand, McCabe was among the chief contenders to win the Alexei Yashin Award For Most Egregiously Awful Return On A Multi-Million-Dollar Contract.
“Why, we were also without Mark Bell and Boyd Devereaux and John Pohl for a good chunk of the season!,” they’ll add, before they wonder why everyone they say it to always wets themselves laughing immediately afterward.
The fact is every NHL team has to overcome injuries if they wish to claim the Stanley Cup at the end of the season. For proof, here’s a list of Cup contenders this year, and the players who’ve missed significant time for them along the way:
Anaheim: Corey Perry, Todd Bertuzzi, Mathieu Schneider
Boston: Manny Fernandez, Patrice Bergeron, Glen Murray, Peter Schaefer, Andrew Ference, Aaron Ward
Buffalo: Teppo Numminen, Tim Connolly, Jaroslav Spacek, Drew Stafford, Maxim Afinogenov, Henrik Tallinder
Carolina: Rod Brind’Amour, Justin Williams, Chad LaRose, Matt Cullen, Ray Whitney, Scott Walker
Colorado: Joe Sakic, Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny, Marek Svatos, Brett Clark, Kurt Sauer, Ian Laperriere
Dallas: Sergei Zubov, Philippe Boucher, Jere Lehtinen, Mattias Norstrom
Detroit: Chris Chelios, Daniel Cleary, Kris Draper, Tomas Holmstrom, Niklas Kronwall, Kirk Maltby
Minnesota: Pavol Demitra, Mikko Koivu, Mark Parrish, Kurtis Foster
Montreal: Bryan Smolinski, Steve Begin
Nashville: Steve Sullivan, Jordin Tootoo, Shea Weber, Martin Gelinas, Jed Ortmeyer
New Jersey: Jamie Langenbrunner, Jay Pandolfo, Colin White, Karel Rachunek
New York Rangers: Petr Prucha, Paul Mara, Sean Avery, Martin Straka, Brendan Shanahan
Ottawa: Daniel Alfredsson, Chris Neil, Anton Volchenkov, Dany Heatley, Dean McAmmond
Philadelphia: Simon Gagne, Joffrey Lupul, Derian Hatcher, Scottie Upshall
Pittsburgh: Gary Roberts, Sidney Crosby, Marc-Andre Fleury, Maxime Talbot
San Jose: Ryane Clowe, Curtis Brown, Kyle McLaren
Vancouver: Sami Salo, Willie Mitchell, Mattias Ohlund, Kevin Bieksa, Brendan Morrison, Lukas Krajicek
See what I’m getting at? None of the above teams had anywhere close to an injury-free year, yet they’re all angling for a playoff berth in a far more meaningful way than Toronto is.
That’s because, to one degree or another, each of those teams is deeper and more talented than the Leafs – healthy or not – have been in a long time.
This column also appears in the Toronto Metro Newspaper.
Adam Proteau is The Hockey News’ online columnist and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays and Wednesdays, his Ask Adam feature appears Tuesdays and Fridays, and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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