Hockey is a dangerous sport, especially at the NHL level. If the giant men flying and throwing their bodies at break neck speeds don’t get you, blocking a 100-mph slap shot will. When you look at someone like Andrew Cogliano, who has been lucky enough to participate in 769 NHL games, which is good for the NHL’s longest active and 5th all-time iron man streak, you have to tip your cap to him even if he’s wearing the colors of a bitter rival.
On the other side of the spectrum, there are entire NHL careers defined by injuries. Whether they play on the edge or have just been born with bad luck, “injury prone” is a tag certain NHL players can’t shake.
Many players on this list are active today while some have already retired. And though we don’t ever want to see these guys get hurt because the league is better when they’re playing, here are the top 15 most injury prone NHL players.
15. Brendan Gallagher
Brendan Gallagher takes a beating every single game. In his five seasons with the Canadiens, he has become a fearless net-front presence, crawling under the skin of opposing goalies and defensives. As a result, Brendan Gallagher probably gets hacked and whacked more than any other player and, unfortunately for Montreal, this doesn’t always translate into potting home rebounds or tipping in shots from the point. It means that Brendan Gallagher is putting his health on the line.
Last season, Brendan Gallagher missed 17 games after he bolted to the blueline to block a shot from Islander defenseman Johnny Boychuk and took the puck directly to the top of his left hand, breaking two fingers that had him sidelined for weeks. To make matters worse, Gallagher suffered an almost identical injury this season in Dallas when Shea Weber’s shot caught him in the hand. After starting his career with three healthy seasons, the wear and tear that comes with Brendan Gallagher’s style of play will only mean more games lost to injury in the coming seasons.
14. Sidney Crosby
Even the best player in the world isn’t immune to the injury prone tag. Although the reigning Stanley Cup champion and Conn Smythe winner has had much better luck in recent years in regards to staying healthy, it wasn’t long ago where the league was worried his career might be cut short because of injuries.
In 2010-11, Crosby was diagnosed with a concussion as a result of hits to the head in back-to-back games. The concussion kept him out of the lineup for ten and a half months. Upon his return in the 2011-12 season, Crosby’s concussion symptoms returned in December 2011 after eight games and he would not play again until March 2012, registering a career-low in games played at 22. Then, towards the end of the lockout-shortened season in 2012-2013, Crosby took a Brooks Orpik slap shot to the face and was out of the lineup with a broken jaw.
13. Ryan Callahan
Playing with an edge might finally be catching up to Ryan Callahan. Though he could hardly be considered injury prone before this season, rarely missing games despite the fact he was clearly hurting, Ryan Callahan’s sudden decline in health must make Lightning fans worried.
This offseason, Callahan received surgery to repair a labral tear in his right hip, an injury he had reportedly been dealing with since the end of the regular season and throughout the playoffs. He’s struggled to stay healthy ever since. He initially returned to the lineup in November only to be held out again until January 3rd. By January 15th, the Lightning announced he was going to miss four weeks with a lower body injury. Since then Lightning GM Steve Yzerman announced that Callahan had a follow-up procedure on his hip and, while it’s supposedly not career-threatening, only appearing in 18 games is cause for pause.
12. Joffrey Lupul
Joffrey Lupul is so injury prone, Lou Lamoriello has had him in the injured reserve list since last season. Truth to be told, Lou did this for some clever salary cap circumnavigation, but it doesn’t change the fact that Joffrey Lupul has had a lot of trouble staying healthy.
In the past four seasons with the Leafs, Lupul has had dozens of injuries, missing nearly 40 percent of the Leafs’ games. Even though it appears that Joffrey Lupul will not play in another NHL game, it is rather remarkable that he was able to recover from back surgery in 2009 and a subsequent blood infection where he was bedridden for nearly an entire year.
11. Beau Bennett
Through three NHL seasons, New Jersey’s Beau Bennett has undergone wrist surgery, required knee braces to skate, suffered chronic shoulder issues, caught the mumps and has been cut in practice twice.
Worst of all, Beau Bennett hurt himself celebrating a goal. Bennett scored his first goal of the 2015-16 season against Carey Price on October 13th and slammed into the glass in celebration. After the loss, the Penguins announced Bennett would be out with an undisclosed lower body injury.
On the bright side, Bennett takes the injury prone label in stride, often sharing pictures and memes of fans mocking his fragility including one that featured a man in a full body cast with the Stanley Cup.
10. Taylor Hall
Taylor Hall is one of the league’s most explosive power forwards, but as a result has spent a good chunk of his career injured.
From 2011, Hall has suffered a concussion, a laceration to the face, a shoulder injury, a knee injury, a leg strain, a sprained MCL, an ankle sprain and a cracked ankle. Last season, Hall managed to play in all of Edmonton’s 82 games, which marked the first time in his career he had played a full season. Sadly for Devils’ fans, Hall was unable to continue his ironman streak, missing 10 games in November because he required arthroscopic surgery on his knee.
9. Evgeni Malkin
Evgeni Malkin is as dangerous an offensive weapon as there is in the NHL, even though he’s likely to miss a ton of games because of injury. Last season, Malkin notched 28 goals and 42 assists in only 69 games. In the four season where he’s played 75 or more games, he’s tallied at least 30 goals and 85 overall points, topping 100 points in three of those campaigns.
Though these numbers are impressive, Malkin has missed a combined 86 games in the last three seasons. We can only speculate how dominant Malkin’s numbers could be if only he had more opportunity to have been the other half to Pittsburgh’s unstoppable, offensive juggernaut.
8. Martin Havlat
The recently-retired Martin Havlat has to be one of the first names NHL fans think of when they think about injury prone players.
Injuries, specifically shoulder injuries, followed Martin Havlat through his early years with the Sens and the Blackhawks. After two healthy seasons with Minnesota, Havlat was acquired by the San Jose Sharks for Dany Heatley and fans were ready to embrace the forward that could put up 50 points while giving their team more salary cap flexibility. However, that all came crashing down when Martin Havlat tore his ham string hopping over the boards for a line change. After that humiliating injury, the injury bug kept bothering Havlat for the remainder of his career.
7. Kris Letang
Kris Letang should be a perennial Norris Trophy candidate. The only thing standing in his way are injuries. This season alone he’s missed seven games with a lower-body injury, five with an upper-body injury and he is now out for a third stint with an upper-body injury.
Add in the fact that Letang has suffered numerous hits to the head over the course of his career and a stroke in 2014 because of a tiny hole in the wall of his heart called a patent foramen ovale, every time Kris Letang gets hurt, we can’t help but hold our breath and hope that this isn’t the last time we see Letang on the ice.
6. Kari Lehtonen
With the Atlanta Thrashers, Kari Lehtonen earned a reputation as an unreliable and injury prone goalie. To start the 2005-06 season, Florida Panthers center Nathan Horton collided with Lehtonen and he suffered a serious groin injury that kept him out for 35 games. Lehtonen was injured again when Lightning forward Chris Dingman crashed the net and sprained the Finnish goalie’s ankle in the process.
Even though Lehtonen was able to get a fresh start in Dallas in 2010, his reputation followed him to the Lone Star state. He’s never gotten an opportunity to be a full-fledged number 1 goalie in Dallas, probably because management fears putting all their eggs in Lehtonen’s basket could burn them if he goes down, which given his past is always a possibility.
5. Steven Stamkos
Ever since Steven Stamkos broke his tibia in a game against the Boston Bruins on November 11th, 2013, the Lightning’s sniper has had some seriously bad injury luck. Not only did he miss a large chunk of the season from the broken tibia, he also missed out on a chance to win gold with the Canadian Men’s team at the Sochi Games.
On April 2, 2016, the Lightning announced that Stamkos was diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, colloquially known as blood clots, which forced him to miss all but one game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, a loss to the eventual Stanley Cup champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. This year, Stamkos is once again out indefinitely, this time with a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee. Losing his goal scoring certainly hurts the Lightning, but to see more years of Stamkos’ prime lost to injuries hurts all hockey fans.
4. Marian Gaborik
Marian Gaborik is going into his 16th NHL season, which is an incredible accomplish. Mind you, the Slovakian goal scorer has only played a full 82-game season once in his career: 2011-2012 with the New York Rangers.
When he is healthy, Marian Gaborik can still pot highlight reel goals, but thankfully for the Kings, their game isn’t dependent on goal scoring. The Kings are their most successful when their playing defense and grinding down the opposition’s forecheck, which means the team can sustain success without Gaborik in the lineup. And as Gaborik inches towards 40, it’s more and more likely that he’ll miss time to recover from ailments.
3. Rick DiPietro
On September 12, 2006, Rick DiPietro signed a 15-year, $67.5 million contract with the Islanders to become their franchise cornerstone, but it would end as one of the most disastrous signings in NHL history.
Towards the end of the season, DiPietro suffered back-to-back concussions. That offseason, DiPietro underwent surgery to repair a torn torn labrum in his hip, which was the beginning of the end. From 2008 to 2013, DiPietro was always going under the knife to repair his knees, groin and other appendages. There are too many injuries to name, so we’ll just let you decide which is worse: getting knocked out by a single punch in a rare goaltender fight and waking up with a broken jaw or injuring his hip in the All-Star game’s shootout competition?
2. Eric Lindros
Before the 1991 NHL Draft, Eric Lindros was going to change the game of hockey. It didn’t take him long to make a mark on the league, winning the Hart Trophy and the Lester B. Pearson Award in 1995, but by 1998 concussions started to bug him. Rumour has it that Lindros suffered anywhere from 8 to 10 concussions in his career and now must live the rest of life in fear of CTE.
Lindros scored 865 points in 760 games played before he retired at age 34, which is young considering his hockey smarts should have extended his career long past any average player. Who knows how many he could have scored if he hadn’t had missed entire seasons because of injuries.
1. Sami Salo
If you can think of an injury, chances are Sami Salo’s had it. There is no NHL player in the history of the league more injury prone than Sami Salo.
Over the course of 15 NHL seasons, Salo suffered multiple groin, shoulder, wrist, hand and leg injuries. But he has even more brutal and gruesome injuries to boast about, including the time he took a puck to the face that caved in his nasal and sinus cavities and required metal reconstruction on his face. Or the time he was bit by a venomous snake one summer back in Finland. Or how about when Salo took a Duncan Keith shot to the groin and left the game with a ruptured testicle? Did we also mention Salo tore his achilles tendon?
Experts estimate Sami Salo suffered 41 injuries in his career, which is an outrageous amount of injuries to not only suffer but recover from. Though he may not have a Stanley Cup ring, Sami Salo will forever be remembered as the NHL bionic man.
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