July 28 2011 10:15AM
Short answer, yes with an if. Long answer, no with a but.
How will potential injuries affect the production of the Leafs top forwards? Last year none of the Leafs top offensive forwards missed any time. 30 goal men Kessel and Kulemin played in all 82 games. Clarke MacArthur who led the team in points, also played in all 82 games. (Editors Note: As noted by Matt_Roberts, MacArthur was second in points behind Phil Kessel. Man Phil Kessel is awesome.) The Leafs MVP of last season, Mikhail Grabovski played in 81 games. He missed one game due to the birth of his child. In addition to an extremely healthy offensive core, both Luke Schenn and Tyler Bozak appeared in all 82 games as well. (Kaberle also played in every game while still with the team so he counts as half) How did the team compare to the rest of the league?
92 players appeared in all 82 games last season. 63 forwards and 29 defenseman. Carolina led the league with 6 players appearing in every game, Toronto ranked second with 5. Boston and Colorado were the only two teams without one player to appear in every game. While the NHL does not officially release man games lost, the stats are available. James Mirtle compiled a list ranking each team by total man games lost to injury.
Nassau Coliseum must be built on top of a mirror factory as they had lost an astonishing 512 Man Games Lost over 74 regular season games for an average of 6.92 MGL/G. Colorado was a distant second with 385 MGL over 72 regular season games, 5.35 MGL/G. A serious space-worm infection must have gone through the Carolina locker room as they had only 56 MGL over 72 games, that’s only 0.78 MGL/G. It would also help to explain Jeff Skinner. The Leafs were in the middle of the pack ranking 21st with 166 MGL, 2.24/G. The average was 223 MGL over the games included. The Leafs were a healthier than average, but not immune to injury. As Mirtle explains, the list does not take into account who was injured only the total games lost. While the Leafs were lucky when it came to their top forwards, they did see some injuries throughout the season. Dion Phaneuf, J.S. Gigeure, Colby Armstrong, and Colton Orr all missed significant time with the club. Obviously the team benefits from having its top players play in as many games as possible, but injuries are inevitable. How many games can our top players afford to miss?
About 15. 62 GP seems to be something of a magic number. Last season, any player who scored over 25 goals played in at least 62 games. (other than Crosby, but he doesn’t count for obvious reasons) All but three players- Datsyuk, Crosby, and Andy McDonald- who recorded over 50 points played in at least 62 games . Since the lockout only 15 players have put up more than 50 points while playing in fewer than 60 games. That number jumps to 211 among players playing 76 or fewer games. So long as our top forwards are able to play in at least 70 games their production will not be significantly affected. Should any of them miss significant time it will hopefully be mitigated by the depth added by Burke over last season and in the off-season.
Thanks to these additions the Leafs do not need to be as healthy as they were in 2010-2011. Last season injuries, trades, and a dearth of talent forced Joey Crabb, Daryl Boyce, and Keith Aulie into more prominent roles than they were qualified for. The additions of Connolly, Lupul, Kadri, Colborne, and potentially Lombardi give the Leafs some much needed depth at forward. The additions of Liles and Franson with Gardiner and Blacker able to fill in short-term will help mitigate any injuries on the blueline.
No, the Leafs will not be as healthy was they were last season. But, the top forwards can afford to miss up to 14 games without a significant drop in production, and the team has added players able to offset any production lost due to significant injury.