“Health is not valued till sickness comes.” – Thomas Fuller
No team in the NHL has won more regular-season games (559) or amassed more standings points (1,228) since the start of the 2008-09 season than the Washington Capitals. That success owes largely to the talent on the roster, the leadership behind the bench, and the wisdom of the front office over the years.
It’s also the result of, well, luck.
Specifically, the Caps have been blessed by the hockey gods with incredibly good fortune when it comes to health and durability during the Ovechkin Era. Sure, there have been some significant injuries that have cost the team – Nicklas Backstrom’s and T.J. Oshie’s concussions, and Dennis Wideman’s and Michal Kempny’s lower-body injuries come to mind.
But go down the list and it really is remarkable: Alex Ovechkin has missed 17 games due to injury or illness in 16 seasons; John Carlson has played 745 of 783 Caps games over the last decade; Nicklas Backstrom has only missed 18 games since the start of 2012-13; Dmitry Orlov just had a 400-plus consecutive game streak end due to a violation of League COVID-19 policies; Lars Eller has missed as many games in the past week (three) as he did in his first four seasons in Washington; and Tom Wilson has missed roughly as many games due to suspensions in his career as due to injury.
Put another way…
Good health plus good teams equals a lot of wins. Heck, the injuries sustained by the Caps have had such a small impact on the roster that their bubble on that chart isn’t even big enough to show the Cup that they won.
Unfortunately, the 2021 season is off to a rocky start for the Caps on the wellness front. The injury bug has claimed Eller for three games (and counting), Justin Schultz for two (and counting), Conor Sheary (who will likely miss his first game due to injury tonight), and Wilson for two games, and the COVID list has claimed Ilya Samsonov and Evgeny Kuznetsov for six games (and counting), with Ovechkin and Orlov coming off that list two games ago.
The Caps have handled this unfamiliar adversity with aplomb, but with a new coach, a handful of new players, a condensed schedule and no training camp, it sure would be nice to see what they could do with a full lineup. Unfortunately, it seems as if 2021 may have different plans for now, at least.
Just don’t expect too much sympathy from the rest of the League.