NHL Betting: The Week's Biggest Stories
by Trevor Whenham - 10/27/2008
The NHL season is brutal, and it's far from rare to see players go down to injury. It's striking, though, how many key players will be missing significant action already--we're only about 10 percent of the way through the season. Injuries are obviously crucial to bettors looking to make an informed decision, so I thought we would spend this week looking at some of the key absences teams are facing and their potential impacts:
Marion Gaborik, Minnesota Wild
Gaborik has missed four games so far with an 'unspecified lower body injury', and could miss more action. He was placed on the IR on Saturday, but that means nothing--he only has to miss seven days, and it's retroactive, so he could return at any time. The absence of the team's biggest offensive threat certainly hasn't hurt them--they are one of just two squads in the league that has yet to suffer a regulation loss. Gabrk has had a history of leg injuries, so this is no real surprise. The circumstances make you wonder about it a bit, though. Gaborik is due for a new contract after this season, and negotiations between the team and the player have not gone well at all. You can't help but wonder, then, whether this is actually an injury, or if it's more of a Manny Ramirez-style 'injury' to express the player's frustration with his current situation. Gaborik doesn't strike me as a guy who is above such a thing. Minnesota is a no-nonsense organization, though, so if that is really the case then the situation will be resolved quickly, and likely not in the way that Gaborik is hoping.
Daniel Briere, Philadelphia Flyers
The Flyers went surprisingly deep into the playoffs last year, but they have not done anything to build on that momentum so far this season. They have just two wins in eight games, and they are already falling out of touch with the leaders in the Atlantic Division. The latest news will not help - Briere is out for about a month. Briere had seven points in six games, and was a key piece of a Philly offense that has the potential to be explosive. It's a torn abdominal injury that required surgery that has Briere sidelined. Surgery went well, but the concern is that this is not the first time that this has been a problem. Briere had the same injury a few years ago when he was with the Sabres. He hasn't had a problem with it since, but the fact that it has occurred again has to make you wonder if it could be a bigger issue this time. The one thing that makes this injury less of a concern than it could be, though, is the incredible depth the Flyers have at center. Despite having more than a point a game, Briere is just third in center scoring behind Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. The team will miss a step or two without Briere, but the impact won't be as significant as losing a player like him would be for most teams.
Johan Franzen, Detroit Red Wings
The Wings lost a major offensive force for a month when Franzen went down with a sprained knee. He has five goals in eight games so far. This is by far the least concerning injury thus far for a couple of reasons, though. First, the Wings have so much offensive depth that they will be more than okay. The team has six players currently on a point-a-game pace, and that doesn't include Franzen. Second, history gives us a good indicator of what to expect. Franzen missed 10 games last year with an early season knee injury, and all the team did last year was win the President's Trophy and the Stanley Cup. They are perhaps more talented than last year, so there are far better things to do with your time than worry about the Wings.
Alexander Ovechkin, Washington Capitals
This situation is more illuminating than it is concerning. After tearing the league up last year, Ovechkin had been off to a very slow start, and it was tough to find explanations. He's not injured, but he has returned to Russia to be with his ill grandfather. Ovechkin is known to be very close to his family, so it would make sense that his concentration could be a little bit off if he was facing this crisis at home. Ovechkin hasn't been terrible--he's still getting lots of chances and taking lots of chances. Hockey is a game of inches, though, and his shooting just hasn't been quite as precise as it usually is. Perhaps this time away, that should only last for a game or two, will help get his shot aligned again. The team is tied for the lead in the division without him contributing much, so when he inevitably goes on a tear the team is in good position to win the division as expected.