Philadelphia Flyers fans are no strangers to the dreaded injury bug. It strikes without abandon each and every year. Sometimes, 'tis but a flesh wound and the fearless warriors are stitched right back up and hardly miss a shift. Other times, the injuries are deeply serious and risk becoming chronic.
The classic example for the Flyers would be concussion-related problems. The image of Eric Lindros being laid out by Scott Stevens in the playoffs will never leave our collective minds. That such a beast of a man can be so fragile is a juxtaposition that defies explanation.
What about the Brian Campbell hit on R.J. Umberger? Or the high elbow that Perezhogin delivered to Keith Primeau, effectively ending his career? What about the phantom concussions on Simon Gagne? They never seem to be as a result of a devastating open-ice hit we're used to seeing, but instead occur because of some innocuous contact along the boards.
And the problem with concussions is that they tend to recur, especially when it concerns players in the Orange and Black.
That was then.
Today's chronic injury of choice appears to be groin-area related. Groin pulls, or strains, or tears. Hernias. Torn labrum. Hip surgeries. Different terms, but all are inter-related.
Over the past few years, it has struck Mike Richards, Simon Gagne, Antero Niittymaki, Peter Forsberg, Danny Briere, and Ryan Parent. There are probably others.
Briere missed 53 games last season because of an abdominal injury. He has had two separate abdominal surgeries, one in 2006 and another last year. In 2000, he missed five games to a groin injury.
Gagne's troubles began in November 2002, when he missed two games due to an abdominal injury before returning to action. Over the rest of that season, Gagne missed another 30 games due to a groin injury. He was also out with groin injuries in 2005, 2007, and in 2009 with his most recent injury.
Richards suffered a sports hernia in January 2007 and missed 16 games as a result. The following season, he missed nine games to a hamstring injury.
The Gods Must Be Crazy!
Do the hockey gods really hate Philly? Or is something else at work here?
Rather than curse at metaphysical deities, it might serve us well to first examine terrestrial causes.
Case in point: Ryan Parent.
He is the most recent casualty, re-injuring a freshly rehabilitated groin injury.
Did he return to action too soon? Is it yet another "unrelated" injury? Or are these simply the vagaries of playing professional ice hockey?
Let us look at Parent's time-on-ice this season:
Oct 2 - 15:46
Oct 3 - 13:44
Oct 6 - 15:56
Oct 8 - 14:50
Oct 10 - 11:11
Oct 16 - 2:46 [this is where he was injured]
Oct 31 - 13:05 [this is where he was re-injured]
At first glance, nothing appears to be out of the ordinary. However, the first five games (Oct. 2-10) represent full games. On October 16th, he was injured and was thus limited to 2:46.
In Parent's first game back from a groin injury, he played 13:05 through two periods of play, and did not play in the third after tweaking his groin. That means that, had he not re-injured himself, Parent was on pace to play 20 minutes, or about 33 percent more ice time than he had this season. All of this, of course, in his first game back from a groin injury.
Was that really the smartest thing to do? Granted, that game was also the one in which Stevens split up the pairing of Braydon Coburn and Kimmo Timonen, so someone had to eat up those minutes on the second pairing.
In the end, it probably should have been handled another way. It doesn't mean Parent would have been OK otherwise, but increasing his time-on-ice by 33 percent was not prudent at all.