As I have done every year since 2013, I made my way to Boston in late February/early March for the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. Over time, given my background, I’ve increasingly paid attention to the health/injury panels at the conference. While I am interested in all aspects of sports analytics, including player performance, drafting, and the like, I have found myself dabbling in the injury side of things as, to this point, it matches my knowledge and training.
The major injury panel this year was called “The Performance/Precaution Tradeoff: Player Health”. I was intrigued by the name of the panel as it was suggestive of some of the hot topics that dominate injury conversation today. At what point should a player be rested to prevent him/her from entering a “danger zone” of increased risk of injury? When is it better to play a back-up for an injured player? 70% health? 60% health? And how does some of the new data being collected infringe upon privacy rights?
These were just some of the things that popped in my head. Did the panel play out the way I expected or did it bring up other topics I hadn’t considered?
Ahhh….the Golden Knights. Those hungry whippersnappers from Las Vegas are responsible for one of the greatest Cinderella stories in sports history. Not since the 1968 St. Louis Blues has an expansion team reached the finals of the NHL, NBA, NFL, or MLB.
I confess, I thought the roster GM George McPhee chose at the expansion draft last summer was one of the worst I’ve seen. I thought he passed on several opportunities for selecting better contributors; I thought his team would be light on scoring and was heavy on mediocre defenseman. Instead, they were fifth in the league in scoring and eighth in expected goals against, per The Athletic. They found players that were stuck on minimal roles in other teams that blossomed in more playing time and have a roster full of players either performing or over-performing their contract values. And that’s without mentioning Number 29 in net.
I’m happy to say that I was wrong. Las Vegas will surely be rocking with one of the best pre-game theatrics in the league before Game 1 Monday night.
But we care about injuries here, so we’ve put together a Stanley Cup Health Preview. NHL injury reports are famously tight-lipped and vague, but we’ll do our best to deduce what’s going on and make some predictions.
In this preview, we’ll discuss the Vegas Golden Knights’ injury issues going into the Finals.
They finally did it! The Washington Capitals have advanced to the Stanley Cup Finals. Twenty long agonizing years for Caps fans filled with immense promise and expectation (full disclosure: die-hard Caps fan). The realization has yet to sink in for me, but come Monday night, the Capitals will play their first Stanley Cup game since 1998 (Editor’s note:die-hardRed Wings fan here. Sorry we beat you in ’98 and caused your lifelong misery). Storylines abound for this Cup Final: Ovechkin and Backstrom finally getting to the Finals. GMGM somehow getting an expansion Vegas Golden Knights team to the ultimate stage for a chance at Lord Stanley, something he failed to do with a loaded Washington Capitals roster for years. And “The Flower”, Marc-Andre Fleury, getting to showcase the huge mistake the Penguins made by letting him go.
When it comes to injury reports and updates, the NHL reporting is mostly insufficient for avid fans anxiously awaiting the return of one of their team’s players. Take Nicklas Backstrom, for instance. As a diehard Washington Capitals fan, I have been looking through Rotowire updates, NHL.com, and even ProSportsTransactions for any little morsel of information. The majority of them state “upper body injury day to day” or even the descriptive “hand injury.”