Injuries are a part of hockey. It’s a physical game, so that’s just par for the course. Though some are certainly hit harder than others, no professional hockey team will ever make it through a full season while avoiding injuries altogether. You just hope for the best – a relatively small number of ailments, and no long-term absences for key players.
Player movement is also a part of hockey, especially in the minor leagues. An ECHL team doesn’t just feel the pain of its own injuries; it also feels the pain of its parent clubs’ injuries. And to make matters worse, sometimes non-affiliate teams will also come calling for talented players when the need arises. Such is life when you’re not at the top of the proverbial food chain.
Because injuries and frequent transactions are essentially expected, players and coaches alike are unlikely to use them as excuses for poor performance. “The players who ARE here have to step up and win games” is a familiar refrain.
Still, there comes a point at which roster instability ceases being a shunned potential excuse and begins being a valid and legitimate reason for a team’s decline. Even the toughest and most talented boxer can only take so many body blows before he goes down.
The IceMen are 51 games into a 72-game season. As recently as a month ago, a post-season berth seemed all but assured. Now, after a miserable stretch, the IceMen find themselves on the outside looking in – 10th in the Eastern Conference, with 13 of their final 21 games on the road.
When Evansville last played on Tuesday at Gwinnett, just 7 of the 18 players who dressed had also dressed for the team’s season opener back on Oct. 19.
The IceMen have now lost 164 man-games to injury this season. Countless other man-games have been the victim of call-ups and loans. The “healthy scratch” has nearly become a mysterious mythical concept.
Only two players – Matt Schepke and Mike Seidel – have played in all 51 games. Matt Krug has played in 50 of the 51, sitting out one contest for disciplinary reasons. Loren Barron is the only other IceMen player who has been healthy and on the roster all season, having played 44 games while sitting out 7 others when the team had a surplus of defensemen available.
In an effort to clearly illustrate just how many key IceMen players have missed time for various reasons, I’ve put together a list I’m going to call…
THE 2013-14 ICEMEN ALL-UNAVAILABLE TEAM!
Just like for any ECHL game, this team will consist of 16 skaters and 2 goaltenders. But fittingly, given the way this season has gone for the IceMen, the 16 skaters will include an unideal mix of 11 forwards and just 5 defensemen.
Let’s get this pity party started, shall we?
Quite a talented group that includes last season’s top goal scorers (Clarke and Beaulieu), two of this season’s three best point-per-game producers (Langlois and Moon), a pair of guys who started the season under contract at higher levels (Sakaris and King), a pair of other guys who earned AHL contracts with non-affiliate clubs this season (Kennedy and Lowry), and two more guys who spent considerable time in the AHL last season (Bouvet-Morrissette and Leveille)…
• Dylan Clarke (33 games missed): Missed 32 games due to hip surgery, then 1 additional game as a hip maintenance day after returning.
• Patrick Kennedy (32+): Missed the first 5 games of the season with a knee injury. Later sat out 10 games due to a concussion. Has missed the last 17 games (and counting) while in the AHL with the Utica Comets.
• Andre Bouvet-Morrissette (27+): Has missed 27 games (and counting) after sustaining a broken orbital bone and subsequently having shoulder surgery to repair previous damage. Will miss the rest of the season, so his “games missed” total will climb to 48 by season’s end.
• Josh Beaulieu (20+): Sat out 1 early-season game as a maintenance day for his wrist, after his 2012-13 season was cut short by a severe laceration. Later missed 7 games due to hip and shoulder ailments. Has missed the last 12 games (and counting) with a broken foot. Still at least a couple weeks away from returning.
• Matt Lowry (19): Missed 19 games while in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.
• Nathan Moon (14+): Missed 2 games due to a finger injury. Has missed the last 12 games (and counting) with a broken wrist/arm. Still a few weeks away from returning.
• Peter Sakaris (9): Missed 4 games with a groin strain, then returned for 2 games before re-tweaking the groin. Has missed the last 5 games, but is expected to return soon – perhaps as early as tonight.
• Tristan King (9+): Missed 5 games due to a concussion, then returned for 3 games before experiencing an undisclosed setback. Has missed the last 4 games (and counting) and is out indefinitely.
• Louke Oakley (8): Has missed the last 8 games with a broken foot, but is expected to return soon – perhaps as early as tonight.
• Jeremy Langlois (3): Missed 2 games thanks to a pair of 1-game call-ups by the AHL’s Springfield Falcons. Also missed 1 game with a foot injury.
• Daultan Leveille (3): Missed 1 game with a hamstring issue, and later missed 2 games due to back spasms.
Just a ho-hum group highlighted by both members of your affiliate-owned season-opening top defense pairing (Larkin and Lavin), a stud rookie under AHL contract (Hannay), and an intimidating veteran who nobody wants to fight (Lepine)…
• Thomas Larkin (28+): Missed 11 games during back-to-back call-ups by Springfield. Has missed the last 17 games (and counting) due to another Springfield call-up.
• Joe Lavin (27+): Missed 16 games after having surgery to repair a sports hernia. Later missed 1 game due to a fractured thumb. Has missed the last 10 games (and counting) after Springfield called him up and traded him.
• Sawyer Hannay (26+): Has missed the last 26 games (and counting) after the AHL’s Chicago Wolves called him up to allow him to leave for college.
• Guy Lepine (11+): Missed 1 game due to a foot injury. Has missed the last 10 games (and counting) while in the AHL with the Utica Comets.
• Jacob Johnston (6): Missed the season’s first 6 games due to a wrist injury. (To his credit, he has played in all 45 games since.)
Pre-season #1 whose resume includes NHL experience? Check. Affiliate prospect who played so well in training camp that he jumped over the aforementioned would-be #1 on the depth chart? Check…
• Allen York (24): Dressed for just 9 of the team’s 33 games (starting 6) prior to being traded to South Carolina. Was on the IceMen roster for just 27 of 87 calendar days before the trade, due to 3 separate stints in the AHL and a trip to Europe as part of Team Canada’s Spengler Cup squad.
• Mike Clemente (13): Missed 13 games while in Springfield filling in for Mike McKenna, who was with the Blue Jackets due to Sergei Bobrovsky’s injury in Columbus.