There are many factors that impact an NHL team’s chances of making the playoffs, and the Coyotes are certainly not immune from any of them.
In this post, we will address perhaps the biggest and most uncontrollable “wild card” factor: Injuries!
No team can predict the injuries their team will sustain, and losing key players as a result of them can devastate a team’s chances of making the playoffs or advancing deep into them.
Considerations regarding injuries involve several related questions:
Who is the player involved and what position does he play? What type of injury did he sustain? When did the injury occur, and what is the prognosis and timeline for the player’s return to the ice? How deep is the team at that particular position? Do they have players that can fill in and maintain the high level of play of their injured teammate?
The answers to those questions may very well impact an organization’s final results. Teams strive for consistency throughout the long 82-game regular season for the privilege of reaching the coveted Stanley Cup playoffs.
In the Arizona Coyotes’ case, the loss of Niklas Hjalmarsson occurred relatively early in the season, so the injury may not be as devastating and disruptive as it could have been later in the season when the Coyotes play a lot of games in a brief period due to a compressed schedule. Hjalmarsson is the best “pure” defender on the Coyotes roster, and he is a critical member of the penalty-killing unit. As such, it is essential that a healthy Nik Hjalmarsson gets back on the ice and into the flow of the regular season for the critical games to come.
The Arizona Coyotes also take proactive on-ice measures that focus on minimizing the negative impact that injuries cause to the ‘Yotes as a whole. Having two outstanding goalkeepers that routinely rotate through the lineup pays dividends now by keeping them rested and healthy, and prepares them both to be mentally and physically ready if one of them goes down to injury. Such mental focus and “muscle memory” readiness will become even more critical to the team as the season wears on.
Similarly, the fact the Arizona Coyotes normally roll 4 lines onto the ice when players are healthy cannot be overemphasized. Not only does it mentally prepare each player for his particular role when he hits the ice, but it also enables him to be physically and emotionally fit to compete when the going gets even tougher, as it inevitably will.