Thursday, September 1, 2016

On The Potential For Injuries At The World Cup Of Hockey

Just about every hockey fan seems excited for the upcoming World Cup. Preliminary games start next week, and the tournament will take up the second half of this month. (It's September, by the way, however the fuck that happened.)

The best hockey players in the world are split into eight fairly-evenly-balanced teams and there is National Pride on the line, so they should all care more than they do in the All-Star Game.

The big news this morning, though, is not the games that will be played in the upcoming tournament - it's one player who will not be playing in those games. Sweden's captain, Henrik Zetterberg, is going to miss the whole thing with an undisclosed injury.

It's impossible to know, at least for me because I have no sources, how Zetterberg was injured. It could have been related to training for the tournament, or it could have been something completely unrelated. Perhaps he was out partying with Claude Giroux the night before the Flyers released their alternate jerseys for the upcoming season.
Woof, Claude. Dead eyes like you read about.

Regardless of how Zetterberg actually hurt himself, though, his injury has brought up a Topic That Must Not Be Named. What if someone gets injured in this largely meaningless tournament and misses games for their actual club?

As we generally do in this space, I'm going to focus specifically on the Flyers. Let's start with the aforementioned hungover captain:

Claude Giroux, Team Canada

If G gets injured we are fucked. They brought this topic up on Sons Of Penn's SOP Radio podcast night, and the conclusion was that if Giroux misses a month we might as well just pack it up for the season and go home. It's tough to argue with that.
 (Editor's note: You should be following SOP and listening to their Flyers podcast every week. They're great.)

Jake Voracek, Team Czech Republic

He'll be the second most important player for the Flyers this season, but he's unquestionably the most important player for the Czechs. I think it'll be good for him to have to shoulder the load, and God knows he's going to have to if this team is going to make any noise.

But if he gets injured and is forced to miss a significant amount of time, could that create a hole for a certain top-line-winger prospect that we aren't expecting to see this season? I mean, Shayne Gostisbehere was able to make the jump to the NHL because Mark Streit broke his penis.

I'm not saying Jake should sacrifice his own penis for Travis Konecny, but hey, just saying.

Shayne Gostisbehere

Speaking of Ghost, the international format should suit his game well. Nobody in the tournament is really known as a bruiser (except Radko Gudas, who probably is not going to be targeting his own teammates). (Ghost emoji)(Bear emoji) might end up being the star of this whole goddamn tourney.

But if he gets seriously injured I'll overdose on whatever drugs they let me buy at CVS right in the middle of PBR Bar. That's the potential injury that would hurt more than the rest. Even if G goes down and the team is no longer competitive, they'll still be fun to watch because that's who Ghost is as a player. If Ghost goes down then we have no chance but it'll also be a boring on-ice product.

Sean Couturier

The captain of Team North America is obviously going to be logging some very heavy minutes during this tournament. He's going to have to occupy the biggest names in hockey to create opportunities for Gaudreau and McDavid and Drouin. Essentially, it'll be just like always for Coots. He's going to get the tough minutes, he's going to succeed in those tough minutes, and his teammates will be able to thrive around him.

The downside of playing tough minutes is the potential for injury. Couturier is a player than cannot be replaced by anyone in the Flyers organization except Giroux, and we'd obviously rather have Giroux playing with an offensive mindset than a defensive one. We saw it in the playoffs last Spring - if Coots goes down, we're toast. And then we're just trying to tread water until he returns.

Radko Gudas

Let's breeze right through this one. Gudey isn't getting hurt.

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare

This might end up being the pinnacle of PEB's hockey career. He's going to get ice time with players of a higher caliber than ever before (except that one time he was on a line with Voracek and Valdevelde, remember that?).

It's sad to say, but he might end up being the engine on this European team because he's one of the few guys on the roster than can really lay it all on the line for this tournament. If he pushes himself too hard or plays too risky, it's really not a huge deal in the grand scheme of things. Maybe that'll clear a spot for Taylor Leier to finally stick on the Flyers.

Michal Neuvirth

This one would be bad. If someone runs Neuvy or he tweaks something, it puts a TON of pressure on Steve Mason early. I think I can safely speak for all Flyers fans when I say that, even though the goalie tandem is a strength of this team, one of those goalies on his own is decidedly less appetizing.

The saving grace, in this situation, is Neuvirth should be splitting time pretty evenly with Petr Mrazek and Ondrej Pavelec.

Mark Streit

This is one that I don't want to write. I've always attempted to take up a pro-Streit attitude when I write because I think too many people just want to dump him for nothing. He has value, even though he's noticeably aging, because he's a talented veteran with more experience than anyone else on the Flyers.

Yes, he's getting old and slowing down. But hockey, even moreso than other sports, requires leadership off the ice as much as talent on the ice. Look at the Edmonton Oilers. That's not what a franchise wants to look like.

In looking at Team Europe's defense, Streit's probably going to have to log no less than half of the penalty minutes and about a third of the even-strength minutes. They'll probably turn Roman Josi and Luca Sbisa into their "horses", but it falls off from there. Maybe Streit ends up being a 20-minutes-per-night guy.

I can feel myself delaying. The point of this post is to talk about what happens if they get injured.

What happens if Streit gets injured?

Then, our presumed defense corps of MDZ-Gudas-Ghost-Streit-Schultz-MacD-Manning either plays without any subs in Streit's absence or someone else replaces him.

I mentioned above what happened the last time Streit got injured. The scenario this time could be replacing him with Ivan Provorov in the opening day roster. Could. Possibly. Maybe. Potentially.

Hear me out.

If Provy can't hang, we can send him back to Brandon in the WHL after half a dozen games and just tough it would with 6 defensemen until Streit returns.

If Provy kills it and becomes a top-four-caliber blueliner, then he stays and we send MacDonald to the Phantoms when Streit returns. We won't worry about having to send A-Mac through waivers, because he's owed almost $22 million between now and 2020.

There you go. I said it out loud, and now it's in the universe. Mark Streit breaking his other penis in the World Cup of Hockey wouldn't be the worst thing in the world.

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