SUN Hockey Pool

Relatively healthy Oilers top 200

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:18 PM ET

The number is going to top 200 again.

Five straight seasons.

Two hundred or more man games lost every season dating back to the year the Edmonton Oilers went to Game 7 of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Ales Hemsky has been pronounced in need of shoulder surgery and is out for the season. He may even be out to start next season. He’ll have played only 69 games total in the last two years. He’ll have missed 131 games in the last five seasons since he managed 81 in the 1995-96 season, the Oilers’ Stanley Cup final year. But all of that is another column.

As Hemsky, Taylor Hall, Sam Gagner and Ryan Whitney sit in the press box watching what remains of this NHL season, the five-straight-seasons-out-of-the-playoffs Oilers man-games-lost butcher bill looks like this:

• 2006-07 – 286

• 2007-08 – 347

• 2008-09 – 225

• 2009-10 – 521

• 2010-11 – 200+

It’s 164 going into Thursday’s 71st game of the season against the Phoenix Coyotes.

With 12 games to go and Hemsky, Hall, Gagner and Whitney (plus Shawn Horcoff out for a while, and who knows who else?) it’ll likely hit 220.

Using that number, it will mean the Oilers will likely hit 1,600 man games lost due to injuries in the last five years combined.

That’s a simply staggering statistic.

But there’s something shocking thing about this year’s number.

Because the injuries have felled essentially the Oilers first line and best defenceman, the impact has been dramatic.

But the fact is the Oilers have been the healthiest team in the entire division this year.

You read that right.

The Vancouver Canucks managed to reach 101 points in the standings, 10 more than anybody else in the league, despite 297 man games they’ve lost due to injuries.

The Minnesota Wild are up to 346.

Calgary sat at 293 going into last night’s game.

The Colorado Avalanche, who are dropping like a rock and will be here Saturday to engage (or not) in a battle to avoid the Western Conference basement with the Oilers, have more reason to be down there in terms of their M*A*S*H unit.

Colorado entered the week with 358 man-games lost to injury, the second-highest total in the league, behind the New York Islanders’ 487. The New Jersey Devils, at 352 man-games lost, were third.

Colorado is on pace to eclipse the all-time team record for man-games lost in a season — 417, with the 2003-04 edition.

No Avs player will participate in all 82 games for the second straight season. The last NHL team to go two consecutive seasons without having a player appear in all 82 games was the St. Louis Blues in 2003-04 and 2005-06. The Oilers, at least, still have Andrew Cogliano and Tom Gilbert, iron men at 316 and 324 games, respectively.

As the NHL adds up all the man games lost to concussions and head hits at the GM meetings in Florida, maybe they should be looking at a bigger picture.

With three weeks left in the season, the Western Conference alone has has the astronomical total of 1,458 man games lost due to injuries.

That’s going to end up over 1,600. Should one division have 1,600 man games lost due to injuries?

Contrast the Northwest Division team numbers with that of the Phoenix Coyotes. They went into last night’s game in Calgary having lost 101 man games this year.

The league doesn’t even keep these statistics. Even the Elias statistical wizards can’t supply these numbers. The Oilers can’t come up with theirs more than two years back.

Like they’re not relevant?

One day hockey historians may look back and conclude the butcher bill in Edmonton had a lot to do with developing one heck of a hockey team for the future.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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