The Pittsburgh Penguins are losing games and losing ground and after last weekend, it looks they can't beat anyone in the division whose goal differential doesn't look like a good weekend at Pebble Beach.
Grit this and talent that -- it can be explained away in a hundred ways, but the losses are piling up because of injuries. We know. Trade everyone. Fire everyone. Trade and fire this column.
As healthy as the Pens seem to be right now, healthy is still a relative term. Two regulars are done for the year. Two of their five-best goal scorers are in the midst of extended stays on injured reserve, and they're only very recently removed from a stretch that saw them play with half a replacement lineup.
As a result, the team has traded wins and sometimes very bad losses for the last month.
The silliness hit its apex in December, when the team was without three of its top-four defensemen (Paul Martin, Christian Ehrhoff and Olli Maatta) and half of its starting forwards, whether due to real hockey injuries or the mumps. More than a dozen starters were out of the lineup for games in late December, yet the Pens held their spot near the top of the division through that spell.
Get healthy, and they'd be back in first place, they said.
Most of the team has been back in action for the last week or two. CBS Sports has the Pens with only five players on the injured list, and one of them, Anton Zlobin, was never going to make it out of Wilkes-Barre in the first place.
How, then, are injuries to blame for the slide?
Getting hurt can take all forms. Lose a few depth guys to bumps and bruises throughout the year and you're par for the course. Lose a lot of people at once, and you can excuse a losing streak. Lose a lot of your best players to Injured Reserve while many others miss a few games here or a week or two there and then you're coming close to what the Penguins have been dealing with since December 1.
It's hard to calculate, specifically, what an injured player subtracts from the lineup. Thankfully, someone else did all the hard work for us.
ManGamesLost.com is a useful site that tracks injuries and, obviously, man-games lost to injury, the standard statistic in tracking how injured a team is.
They also go further into the idea by coming up with metrics that track how good and impactful those missing players are, coming up with a little bit of calculus called TMITT (Time Missed Impact to Team).
The TMITT score (latest compiled numbers from January 17) combines the total man-games lost with the on-ice production of the players who've specifically been lost, and it helps to identify how many goals, assists and other useful hockey contributions are wearing suits and eating nachos in the press box.
What is TMITT? How is it calculated?
Time Missed Impact To Team (TMITT) is a metric that attempts to quantify the impact of a player not playing for their team due to injury. A higher TMITT number equals a higher impact of injured players to the team. TMITT utilizes a skater's average time on ice (ATOI) or minutes played for goalies, the number of games missed due to injury, the number of games played by their team, and the number of games that the player has played in (necessary due to players who aren't on the team's roster or IR at all times i.e. AHL call-ups).
basic NHL TMITT = (playerGP x ATOI x playerGamesInjured) / teamGP
Quite simply, a higher TMITT score means more of your good players are missing games than other teams' good players. And oh wow would you look at that, the Penguins are the Grand Damned Marshal of the Get Hurt Parade.
The TMITT score can be explained in more specific terms, too, relative to the goals, assists, total points, blocked shots or other individual metrics of the players who are out. Five such TMITT categories include goals, assists, total points, shots on goal and hits. In those five categories, no team has lost more time from impact players than the Penguins.
(In three other TMITT categories -- Skater, Blocked Shots and Takeaways -- the Penguins rank second, third and third, respectively, in the NHL.)
Those big TMITT scores don't just come from having a bunch of injured players, as the Pens had, but having a few injured players who also happen to be really good, as they still currently have. You don't have to look far to see who has contributed to those numbers.
Paul Martin, Chris Kunitz, Christian Ehrhoff, Kris Letang and Steve Downie all missed five or more games. Beau Bennett, Patric Hornqvist and Blake Comeau have missed ten or more games (and counting, for the latter two). Pascal Dupuis and Olli Maatta have combined to play in just 36 games, and that'll be it for their totals as both are on season-ending LTIR.
As mentioned, most of those players are back in the lineup. But Comeau and Hornqvist aren't, and they were second and third in goal scoring at the times of their injuries (they're still top-five on the team, despite having both missed ten or more games). Maatta and Dupuis aren't, and won't be, and both are capable of playing top-line or top-pairing minutes.
Next Man Up is a nice theory, but there are reasons why the Next Men Up tend to fly Greyhound instead of charter. Losing good players is going to catch up with you at some point.
And while there's more wrong than the Penguins than who's out of the lineup, it's worth carving out the difference between kind of healthy and actually healthy, and how the difference between the two can help to explain a dip in play.
Tuesday Slew is a weekly feature that doesn't usually run on Tuesdays during the season. Shower James with your praise and adulation on twitter, @slewfooters.