When I read what's happening in the NHL right now, it seems like players are dropping like flies. Until I read an article as to whether this is the fact or that it's just that more attention has been drawn to injuries lately, I cannot manifest an opinion on the matter. What I do have an opinion on is the effect of injuries on teams early in the season.
There's no doubt injuries late in a season can destroy a hockey club's chances of doing significant damage in the playoffs, if they even make the playoffs. I do, however, think that injuries to key players early in the season, provided they aren't season-ending injuries, can actually help a young team.
Often, hockey teams grow too dependent on their top six forwards and give them substantial ice time as a result. I can clearly understand the reason why teams feel the need to do this, however, I am often at odds with its logic. Overworking top players invariably can lead to higher injury risks. It's when one or more of these key players get injured that an opportunity arises to strengthen a team in regards to its bench depth.
When a team is faced with a serious player shortage, they are forced to rely more on younger talent. This is where the good comes from an injury. As long as the injured players aren't playing, the younger talent gains important experience and valuable NHL minutes, and perhaps, even get to play on special teams. It's this experience that helps a club develop that all important depth chart.
As a player is being resourced into new roles, they have an amazing opportunity to strengthen their self confidence and overall NHL level skill. This helps the club tremendously as it will, in turn, provide the coach with more options down the road.
When an injured player is ready to return to the line up they almost invariably are short shifted for the first few matches until they get their "game legs" back. During this time, the coach is able to get a good look at how his club does when it harnesses the newly developed confidence further down the bench. This in turn affords the coach the wonderful luxury of better resting his top players and thus reducing their risk of further injury because they are less tired and more aware out on the ice.
I think it also builds character on a team that has to band together during the struggles resulting from key players going down. This, in turn, can strengthen the bond between teammates and linemates.
So, when I see teams dealing with lots of injuries in the beginning of a season, I generally make a mental note to see if in fact it results in better played hockey by that team during the latter part of the schedule.
Of course, the more talent depth a club has from day one is also going to help that club, however, with talent being spread much thinner over the many NHL clubs, it's likely that things will tend to balance out anyways.
So for hockey fans out there who are in the throws of an injury siege within their favorite team, perhaps you can take this feather of hope that, in the end, it will be for the good down the road.