One of the staples of Mike Babcock’s final few years in Detroit was the health of his team.
Specifically, the lack of it.
The Red Wings had 224 man games lost to injury last season, per the appropriately named website Man Games Lost. That was around the league average but, in ’13-14 — the year in which Detroit barely squeaked into the playoffs to keep its postseason streak alive — the Wings finished with the second-most man games lost in the NHL, with 421.
Now, new head coach Jeff Blashill has experienced his first bite from the injury bug.
Pavel Datsyuk is out ’til late October/early November after offseason ankle injury. Darren Helm suffered a concussion 15 minutes into training camp, and hasn’t returned to full practice. Danny DeKeyser is in a walking boot and on crutches following a lower-body injury suffered against Pittsburgh earlier this week. Teemu Pulkkinen is day-to-day with an upper-body injury, and Kyle Quincey is day-to-day with a lower-body injury.
The injuries play into a larger narrative-slash-critique that we’ve heard about Detroit over the last few years — that the club is too old and too reliant on veterans. As players get older, they break down. And that’s what some figure happened with the Wings in the past.
(Note: Judging by the comments section, I wasn’t exactly clear about my point here. Meant to say the narrative has existed for a while and was prevalent, but didn’t mean to suggest it’s the reason for this latest rash of bad health.)
There is a silver lining, however. The injuries have allowed some of Detroit’s ballyhooed prospects — Dylan Larkin most notably — to get a bigger opportunity and stay in the conversation for opening night roster spots.
There also appears to be a light at the end of the tunnel for Helm, who had nightmarish health problems from ’13-14. Though the 28-year-old won’t play in the final exhibition games this weekend, there is hope he’ll be ready for Detroit’s season opener on Oct. 9.