Six Stats: Injured players have specific roles that are hard to fill

I have really struggled with what to write this week. The team's numbers haven't really changed very much since they broke out of that losing streak in January. A post arguing that it's too soon to come to any conclusions about Dustin Tokarski's play is now most likely moot with the acquisition of Sebastien Caron out of Germany. The amazing run by the Norfolk Admirals deserves better treatment than I can give it in a couple of hours.

But after reading John's pre-game article yesterday morning, it occurred to me that the real story of the season is injuries. As of sometime last week, the Lightning had lost some 233 man-games to injury, which actually isn't as bad as some other teams. In fact that figure is 12th in the league. What makes it so bad isn't just the number of missed players, but which players have been out and how they figure into where the team has faltered throughout the season.

We all know what Martin St. Louis brings to the team, and at the risk of igniting old debates, Vincent Lecavalier's abilities ought to be obvious as well. Between them, they have missed 18 games, and Vinny's still out with a broken hand. These two are the leadership core of this team, and their absence was notable for that reason alone. And I think everyone understands what the loss of Mathieu Garon, the only reliable NHL goaltender on the roster, means to the team.

But what has been the real impact of the losses to injury? Well, it helps to understand what role these players had been filling.

I'm not including Mattias Ohlund in the following analysis, although the absence of an experienced defenseman was particularly noticeable in the early parts of the season. However, since he has 0 games played this year, I have no way to know how he might have been used by Boucher.

Player Injury Dates Games Missed Injury
Marc-Andre Bergeron Jan 12 - Feb 7 9 games UBI (back)
Feb. 7 - pres 19 games* Back
Bruno Gervais Mar. 6 - pres 7 games* UBI
Adam Hall Jan 7-Feb 7 12 games forearm
3/19 - pres 1 game* undisc.
Victor Hedman Dec. 29 - Jan 31 13 games concussion
Feb. 26 - Mar 6 4 games UBI
Vincent Lecavalier Feb, 21 - pres 13 games* hand
Ryan Malone Nov. 9- Nov. 19 4 games UBI
Jan. 3 - Jan. 7 2 games LBI
Jan. 24 - Feb. 14 8 games UBI
Brendan Mikkelson Feb. 28 - Mar. 2 1 game flu
Tom Pyatt Jan. 20 - Jan. 31 3 games LBI
Ryan Shannon Dec. 23 - Jan. 31 15 games knee
Feb. 25- -Mar. 2 3 games UBI
Mar. 19 - pres 1 game* undisc.
Martin St. Louis Dec. 8 - Dec. 21 5 games broken face
Nate Thompson Dec. 8 - Dec. 10 1 game UBI
Dec. 21 - Jan. 3 5 games LBI
Feb. 28 - Mar. 2 1 game flu
Mar. 17 - pres 2 games* UBI
Dana Tyrell Jan 24 - pres 25 games* knee
J.T. Wyman Jan. 7 - Jan. 31 9 games finger


In addition Steve Downie (3 games in Nov., UBI), Pavel Kubina (4 games in Dec., LBI) and Matt Gilroy (4 games in Dec., LBI & 2 games in Feb., UBI) all missed time.

All in all 16 different players missed at least one game due to illness or injury. And most of these players are not the team's leading scorers, so it's easy to underestimate what their loss means to the team. Of the seven skaters who are currently still out, there are team leaders (players with more than 10 games) in :

TOI/60: Marc-Andre Bergeron and Vincent Lecavalier are fifth and sixth on the team in TOI/60. The players ahead of them--Victor Hedman, Eric Brewer, Steven Stamkos, and Martin St. Louis--are being asked to play more than other players in their absence. They are all in the top 40 players in the league in TOI/60 right now.

CorsiRel/60: Marc-Andre Bergeron (13.3), Bruno Gervais (11.3), and Ryan Shannon (7) are 1st, 2nd, and 4th in Relative Corsi. That means that when they are on the ice the shots go towards the opponents net more than when they are off the ice. Lecavalier (2.7) is 8th.

CorsiRelQoC/60: Adam Hall (1.26) and Nate Thompson (1.21) are 1st and 3rd in CorsiRelQoC. They face the toughest competition on the team. Ryan Shannon (0.7) and Dana Tyrell (0.54) are 9th and 10th.

Offensive Zone start %: MAB (71.2) and Bruno Gervais (62.5) are 1st and 3rd in offensive zone start %, meaning that they've been used in specialized offensive roles. For MAB, this is especially pronounced. Conversely, Adam Hall (33) and Nate Thompson (34.3) have the 2nd and 4th lowest O-Zone start rates, meaning they've been specializing in defensive roles.

Zone Start-Finish Ratio: Dana Tyrell and Adam Hall have the highest Offensive Zone Start to Offensive Zone Finish rates on the team. Both finish shifts in the offensive zone significantly more often than they start them there, meaning that they are very good at transitioning from defense to offense. Nate Thompson is 5th and Shannon and Lecavlier both have positive ratios. In fact, 5 of the top half of the team in this rate are out, as opposed to 2 of the bottom half.

Team FO%: Lecavalier, Hall, and Thompson together take 58% of the team's faceoffs. Hall and Thompson take mostly defensive zone faceoffs, which are critical to supressing shots against.

Essentially, in the injured players, the Lightning have lost players who are defensive or offensive specialists and players who face some of the toughest assignments on the team. The loss of defensive players and territorial players are especially pronounced.

The Lightning have been struggling with puck possession and the transition game all season, and the loss of these particular players has to be seen as troublesome. It should be noted, of course, that even with them in the line-up, the team struggled. However, they are doing much worse without them than they did in the period between the middle of February and the early March when these guys were healthy.

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