Injuries and transfers of players in the NHL: how to account for them in the rates?

The article touches upon the aspects of the importance of one individual player in the NHL teams, as well as the problem of accounting for injuries and transitions of hockey players when placing bets on the matches of the National Hockey League.

The importance of one player for the KHL team

Regardless of whether you are betting on a favorite or an underdog in National Hockey League matches, no doubt you are trying to find out information about injured players in the camps of both opponents. It is clear that if the infirmary in team A is overcrowded, including with key hockey players, and in team B everything is in order, team A has more chances of a successful outcome. But what if only one player is missing, and is it worth considering at all?

Most often, bettors tend to exaggerate the importance of one, especially the key player in highly competitive leagues (and the NHL certainly belongs to such). However, they forget the famous saying of the “leader of the nations” that there are no irreplaceable people, which is quite applicable to this situation.

The fact is that the difference in the class of players at short distance is not as great as it might seem, which means that a retired hockey player, even one of the leaders, always has a replacement, as they say, in position. In addition, there are other ways to compensate for the lack of a “star” on the court – for example, to make adjustments to tactical formations or reallocate the playing time of different links.

Do not forget about the motivation of hockey players who are called upon to temporarily replace the out-of-order leader. Having received their chance, they will try to fully reveal themselves, which, again, can have a positive effect on the results. Of course, motivational aspects are difficult to predict, but let’s try to simulate a situation when a key player is absent for a long time, for example, due to injury.

So, in the “Edmonton Oilers” is probably one of the best players in the NHL Connor McDavid. Let’s imagine that he cannot help his team in the season, and the coaching staff decided not to invite a hockey player from another club to take his place, but to give a chance to his own players of the “second wave”, including youth. Thus, in fact, each player in the team will rise one step up.

In the Accuscore emulation computer system, we will receive the following data:

  • with McDavid: 7th place in the Western Conference, 86 points and 39 wins;
  • without McDavid: 9th place in the Western Conference, 80 points and 35 wins.

If we start from this data specifically, the following conclusions suggest themselves. Firstly, the influence of one player on the performance results does not exceed 3-4%. Secondly, the absence of even a key hockey player will not necessarily greatly affect the final place of the team. However, it is in the example under consideration in the first scenario that the “oilmen” go to the playoffs, and in the second they fly by.

In general, the difference between the probability of a team winning 48% and 51% seems insignificant, however, if we talk about a long series of several matches, it may well play a key role.

Impact of player transitions

Usually, the last deadline for the transition of hockey players to the NHL is February: by this time the teams have already spent about ¾ of the regular season, and thus, the influence of one player, even the most high-class one, who moved from one team to another in February, becomes minimal , considering the results of the whole season. Of course, the schedule of matches can also play a role, but this is, rather, a topic for a separate article.

Of course, player transitions have an impact on the long-term prospects of the team, but in this case we will not evaluate them. But let’s turn again to the Accuscore emulation system to assess the impact of transitions in a short time, that is, in one single season.

So, in the Eastern Conference, the Pittsburgh Penguins added Jason Zucker, Patrick Marlowe and Conor Sheree and Evan Rodriguez to their roster, thanks to which they got an extra victory. The New York Islanders have done the same with the acquisition of Jean-Gabriel Pajot and Andy Green, and their chances of making the playoffs have increased from 85% to 89.5%.

In contrast, the Florida Panthers lost one win, allowing Vincent Trocek to leave the team and replace him with Eric Howla and Lucas Wallmark. At the same time, the “Panthers” would not have made it into the playoffs anyway, but after the deadline for player transfers between teams, their chances of getting out dropped significantly – from 41.15% to 29.66%.

The significance of hockey players’ injuries

It’s hard to believe, but sometimes the absence of one hockey player due to injury can sometimes even play a positive role: the team is mobilized and plays its best quality game. However, more often it happens that a team with an injured player becomes weaker compared to teams that do not experience such problems.

It is worth recalling a number of recent injuries of hockey players and assessing the impact on the game of their teams according to Accuscore emulations:

  • Colorado Avalanche – Mikko Rantanen: -0.5 wins, 0.49 points since February 17, 2020;
  • Pittsburgh Penguins – Jake Gentzel: -1 win, 1.97 points from January 1, 2020

Colorado played five matches without Rantanen and won all of them. After Gentzel was injured, the Penguins players played 24 games, winning 14 and losing 10 matches. During this period, the “penguins” attracted Jason Zucker (in 12 matches he was part of the team) and won 4 and lost 8 matches.

Based on the examples above, we can say that the influence of these players per match does not exceed 4%. If we assume that Gentzel could somehow miraculously heal after injury and take part in the match between the Penguins and Anaheim, then the probability of the Penguins winning would increase from 65.8% to 68% – as you can see, the difference is within the statistical error.

Should hockey players’ injuries and transitions be considered?

It should be said that when a player in one of the NHL teams gets a serious injury that knocks him out of the roster for a long period, the management is forced to look for a replacement for him, and not necessarily due to the transfer of an equivalent hockey player from another club, but also in other ways already mentioned above.

Given the highest level of competition in the National Hockey League, we can confidently assume that in the short term, the importance of one, even the leading, player (it does not matter if he was injured or, on the contrary, came to the club from another team) will have a particular impact on the results. However, it happens that injuries mow down a whole group of hockey players – this is, of course, a special case that can seriously affect the rates.

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