Hockey analytics pioneer Rob Vollman is ESPN Insider's armchair GM this season, exploring how modern statistics can inform front-office decisions.
Injuries don't actually have that much influence in the final standings. Even the teams with the most devastating injuries, such as the Columbus Blue Jackets this season or Detroit Red Wings in 2013-14, are affected to an extreme of about eight points at most. Every point matters, but in the end, injuries have no more negative impact than less-publicized factors such as bad luck in the shootout, a mediocre coaching staff or cold goaltending.
Take this season's Blue Jackets as an example. No team that has been impacted more by injuries, as Columbus has been struck by three of the eight most significant injuries of the season. The Blue Jackets are consequently 24th in the NHL overall and 11 points back of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. There is no better case study than this.
Despite all these injuries, Columbus is actually a point ahead of last season's pace (when it made the playoffs), thanks to players such as Nick Foligno filling the voids. Every team has to expect at least a few injuries, and there are usually a few players who step up to minimize that loss. When those two details are factored into the calculation, injuries have likely only cost the Blue Jackets about four points in the standings thus far.
Let's take a closer look at this team's specific situation, see where they stand relative to the entire NHL and then revisit these calculations more carefully.