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Injuries Hurt Devils Much More than Most

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After a few long-term injuries, the Devils never managed to really get going and that hurt us. How much better would we have been given league-average health. We look into it this week.

Florida Panthers v New Jersey Devils Photo by Paul Bereswill/Getty Images

The Devils were hurt by injury last year. All the way in November, I wrote an article about how dependent we were on our top 5 forwards, top 2 defenders, and Cory Schneider. At the time, our top 5 scored a higher percent of our points than any other team, Adam Larsson and Andy Greene had been put in more difficult situations than anyone in the league, and Schneider ... well he’s just good. The inevitable consequence of this is that our early-season achievement was precariously perched upon the health of the top guys. Unfortunately, we had to endure injuries to Adam Henrique, Travis Zajac, Michael Cammalleri, and Schneider (not to mention Patrik Elias) for varying lengths of time. These injuries combined with the trading of Stempniak made it so that the Devils never truly reached their potential.

Last week I used Rob Vollman’s yearly super-spreadsheet to look into John Moore and Jon Merrill. This week I used it too look at a bigger picture. How much were the Devils hurt by injuries last year compared to other NHL teams. I use two basic catch-all statistics call Goals-Versus-Threshold (GVT) and Point Shares (PS). GVT theoretically shows how many goals a player is worth (offensively and defensively). PS does the same, but in terms of standings points.

GVT was created by Tom Awad and an explanation is here.

PS was created by Justin Kubatko and an explanation is here.

Introduction to Analysis

The logic applied here, was that I took the GVT per game and PS per game of a player and multiplied it by the number of games missed due to injury to figure out how many points/goals a team missed out on due to the players injury. Then I used that data to adjust the actual point totals and goal differentials (retrieved from Hockey-Reference)

A couple things to note before viewing it in its entirety.

  • The calculations were made according to players “end team” and therefore may miscount players who were injured then traded.
  • The goalie effects were calculated, but I ultimately decided to leave them out because quality of the #2 goalie is way more variable than the quality of the #7 defender or the #13 forward. In other words, the effect of an injury to a goalie is just as dependent on the quality of the backup as it is on the quality of the injured guy. For instance Matt Murray arguably made the Penguins better, but this formula would say the Penguins lost Marc-Andre Fleury’s value when he was injured.
  • GVT and PS are not made by the same person and so they may not agree and they may not follow the typical “6 goals in differential = 1 win”
  • The adjustments were 2 steps. Step 1: add the value of injured players. Step 2: weight the new point totals to account for the inflation from step 1.

Data

The table below shows the initial calculations

Team SK PTS Lost SK Goals Lost PTS Gdiff Adj PTS* Adj Gdiff*
ANA 10.46 13.63 103 26 105.97 29.90
ARI 4.87 6.42 78 -36 75.38 -39.30
BOS 7.94 11.73 93 10 93.45 12.00
BUF 8.07 9.46 81 -21 81.58 -21.26
CAR 4.91 7.25 86 -28 83.42 -30.48
CBJ 4.12 2.21 76 -33 72.63 -40.52
CGY 2.85 4.49 77 -29 72.36 -34.24
CHI 3.90 6.02 103 26 99.41 22.29
COL 1.34 -4.50 82 -24 75.85 -38.23
DAL 6.25 8.40 109 37 107.75 35.67
DET 10.84 17.97 93 -13 96.35 -4.76
EDM 13.27 15.18 70 -42 75.77 -36.55
FLA 8.77 12.87 103 36 104.27 39.15
LAK 4.08 2.67 102 30 98.59 22.95
MIN 3.13 3.99 87 10 82.64 4.26
MTL 12.22 16.89 82 -15 86.73 -7.84
NJD 11.84 16.26 84 -24 88.35 -17.47
NSH 2.64 5.01 96 13 91.15 8.28
NYI 6.00 4.32 100 16 98.51 10.59
NYR 6.20 9.48 101 19 99.70 18.75
OTT 2.47 -4.04 85 -11 79.97 -24.77
PHI 6.21 8.10 96 -4 94.72 -5.63
PIT 12.58 19.61 104 42 109.08 51.88
SJS 6.88 12.36 98 31 97.39 33.63
STL 12.50 20.43 107 23 112.01 33.70
TBL 8.73 13.86 97 26 98.24 30.13
TOR 12.83 15.61 69 -48 74.33 -42.12
VAN 13.49 15.76 75 -52 81.00 -45.97
WPG 6.50 6.78 78 -24 77.01 -26.95
WSH 8.87 13.63 120 59 121.37 62.91

For the Devils specifically this was the data:

“SK” mean skater and “G” means goalie. Gdiff is goal differential. “Adj” is the aforementioned step 1 and the asterisk is the second step. The “Rk” is the NHL Rankk of the stat and “Rk change” is how much that ranking changed.

Summary

So to give the summary of what this means:

According to the PS statistic, we lost 12 standings points from skater injury. According to GVT we — more conservatively — lost only about 16 goals from skater injury. These would have correlated to a final of around 88 point and a goal differential of around -17. Again, these are not necessarily supposed to be in agreement. But regardless, the Devils would have climbed to the 17th-ranked team in standings points and 19th in differential. Only Vancouver rose more spots with regards to standings, and only St. Louis and Edmonton rose more in differential.

Conclusion

What does this tell us? Well it tells us that — after accounting for injuries — the Devils were a playoff bubble team. It also means that if you are in the camp that the Devils significantly improved this offseason, then we are absolutely a playoff threat this year with league-average injury luck. With good injury luck even those more pessimistic about out offseason moves need to admit the playoffs are a real possibility.

Your Thoughts

What do you think about this data? Would you like to see more of something like it in the future? How badly do you think the Devils were effected by injuries last year? How dependent on health will the success of this year be? Leave your comments below!