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The price the Avs have paid for injuries

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CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 15: Paul Stastny takes his turn being helped off of the ice with what is most likely due to an intestinal concussion which will sideline him for the rest of the season.
CHICAGO IL - DECEMBER 15: Paul Stastny takes his turn being helped off of the ice with what is most likely due to an intestinal concussion which will sideline him for the rest of the season.

As injuries pile up on teams across the league, folks start talking about man-games lost. They start comparing how many one team has lost versus another; they argue about which team had the most valuable players out of the line up. In the end, this is all supposed to tell us which team suffered the most because of injuries. Obviously, the Avalanche are up there. They certainly don't top the list of number of games lost; that honor belongs to the Islanders. And they haven't lost the most valuable players; hello, Pittsburgh. But what the Avs have lost is something that goes beyond numbers and perceived skill level. It's the collective blow that's created the biggest impact.

This year, like many years, the Avalanche succumbed to the injury bug in a big way. You can talk all you want about how good teams fight through that and win anyway. However, when you look at exactly what went on in Colorado, you can see how the mid-season slide isn't all that surprising.

Looking at the losses line by line and against the record, the picture of the Avalanche landscape becomes a bit clearer. Lines were determined by the amount of time played at that position, both this season and last.

Jones (4)

Galiardi (19)

Stastny (1)

Stewart (21)

Yip (2)

Mueller (56)

Fleischmann (10)

Forsberg

Duchene

Hejduk (7)

Porter

O’Reilly (7)

Winnik (1)

McLeod (11)

Dupuis

Koci (16)

Total Man-Games Lost Forwards: 155

Liles

O'Byrne


Shattenkirk

Quincey (32)

Wilson (5)

Foote (15)

Holos (1)

Cumiskey (36)

Hunwick

Total Man-Games Lost Defensemen: 89

Anderson (15)

Budaj

Total Man-Games Lost Goalies: 15

In that list, the only player you can really say wasn't missed was Koci and mostly because he doesn't play that much anyway. Regardless of how he was playing before the concussion, Cumiskey was a strategic part of the plan for the defense. When he got injured, that plan had to be rethought. During the short time he was back, it seemed pretty evident that the head injury had reduced his ability to play effectively. Apart from Holos, every other player who has missed time from the game is an integral part of who the Avalanche are. It's no wonder the team lost its identity.

There's been a lot of talk about how poor the defense has played; it can't be denied that Sherman needs to do something to improve that group. Still, the number of games lost to injury is significant. And although the majority of those games were the result of two players' problems, all of the players involved in games lost were important. For all the complaining that was done about Quincey, his presence is sorely missed. The slide started shortly after he went out with the shoulder injury, and it was at that time that the GF/GA ratio began to slip towards the negative.

The most daunting - and telling - numbers relate to the forwards. The top two lines of this struggling team have suffered a total of 120 games to this point. This number will continue to grow as Mueller, Fleischman, and, now, Galiardi are expected to be out for the remainder of the season. A minimum of 78 more games will be lost.

When you look at the intense blow our top lines have taken, it's unsurprising the offensive output of the team is waning. Although it could be argued that Mueller was not a part of the early success as he has been out since the pre-season, the mental aspect of losing top player after top player is bound to wear on the young team, making confidence and chemistry falter.

Here's the breakdown of the man-games lost by month, along with the team's record during that time and the players who were out:

Month

Man-games Lost

Players Out

Record

Oct

33

Koci (11), Foote (5), Anderson (3)

Jones (1), Yip (2), Mueller (7)

6-4-1

Nov

70

Koci (5), Quincey (5), Wilson (5)

Foote (7), Cumiskey (13), Anderson (9)

Jones (2), Galiardi (10), Stewart (1), Mueller (13)

7-5-1

Dec

72

Hejduk (7), Winnik (1), McLeod (5)

Quincey (9), Cumiskey (14), Anderson (1)

Galiardi (7), Stewart (14), Mueller (14)

7-4-3

Jan

53

Stastny (1), Stewart (6), Mueller (12), Fleischmann (4)

Quincey (12), McLeod (6), O’Reilly (5)

5-6-1

Feb

34

O’Reilly (2), Quincey (7), Foote (3), Holos (1)

Cumiskey (2), Anderson (2), Jones (1)

Galiardi (2), Mueller (7), Fleischmann (7)

0-7-0

Despite the fact the team had the best records for the months they had the most games lost, continually having to shake up the lines and personnel to accommodate those losses tears down a team's resiliency. People can tackle adversity with strength when it first hits. As it continues, the desperation mounts and that strength - both mentally and physically - weakens. It's understandable that the team's ability to compensate for the missing parts would lessen.

The Avalanche truly have been hit hard by the injuries this season. All told, the team's lost 259 man-games to this point. With the given losses of the players out for the remainder of the season, Colorado will reach a minimum total of 363 games. This number doesn't even factor in what will surely be at least a few weeks for Cumiskey's head to heal enough for him to return - if he ever does.

If the Avs are able to recover from this free-fall and actually make it into the playoffs, it will be a remarkable feat and testament to the heart of the team. If they aren't able to do it, there will be little question as to the biggest factor involved. No matter what happens, though, the young players will learn from this experience, and it will only make them better and stronger as the rebuild continues.

For those who are interested, here are the AHL call-ups the team has had. Only those players who actually dressed are listed, and their numbers only include nights they were on the ice. Those marked with an * stayed with the Avalanche from their first appearance to date.

Jason Bacashihua (3)
Colby Cohen (3)
John Grahame (12)
Cameron Gaunce (1)
Jonas Holos (17)
David Liffiton (4)
Greg Mauldin (29)
Mark Olver (4)
Kevin Porter*
Kevin Shattenkirk*
Ryan Stoa (6)
David van der Gulik (5)