There has been a lot of discussion in the hockey world today about how John Gibson’s history of injuries and historical concerns about durability are a big question mark heading into the Anaheim Ducks round 1 playoff series against the San Jose Sharks.
Before this season, those arguments would have held water. Gibson had not played more than 52 games in a season in his career; with most of those lost games coming from primarily groin injuries.
Now, with Gibson having missed the final 3 games of the regular season due to injury and the playoffs fast approaching, those cries of the Ducks number one netminder being fragile have risen back to the surface among waves of playoff preview articles.
But has Gibson actually dealt with the same durability issues of seasons past? Or is there something outside of his control happening here?
The Pure Numbers
John Gibson played 60 games this season, starting in every single one of them. That was good for 8th in the NHL in games started and 9th in total games played. He was removed from 8 of those games, 3 of which were due to team and/or performance issues. That leaves 5 games where he was pulled due to apparent injury. I’ll break these 5 games down in a minute.
Gibson was also 10th in the league in time on ice. Comparing that to his ranks in games played and started indicates that he did not miss much time at all from being pulled from the contest by head coach Randy Carlyle. This notion of him missing significant time because he was pulled often is just simply not true.
The Injuries Themselves
If you want to argue that Gibson has missed more time than he should have due to injury, then I will not argue with you. But if you want to argue that his injuries were the result of durability, then we’ve got an issue.
Of the 8 games Gibson was pulled from this season after starting, 5 of them were due to injury. Let’s break down those injuries one by one, shall we?
October 13th: Sustained an upper-body injury during warmups. Rumored to be a hand injury. Played the first period but removed for Reto Berra. Played the next game.
November 7th: Hit in the head with a stick. Missed one game.
January 25th: Taken out hard by a sliding Blake Wheeler. Played next game, pulled due to lingering effects of the injury, then missed the next 4 games.
February 19th: Leg taken out by Reilly Smith’s skate behind the net. Fell hard and awkwardly. Missed next 3 games.
April 1st: Run into by Gabriel Landeskog after Ryan Kesler pushed him into Gibson. Missed final 3 games of the season.
Of all those games, only the October 13th game may be a contender for durability issues (and if it was indeed his hand during warmups as rumored, then it’s very unlikely that it would be classified as anything other than an accident through no fault of Gibson).
Note that Gibson did not miss a single game due to an injury outside of each one of these situations. Also note that there has been absolutely indication from the Ducks organization that his historically injury-prone groin has been responsible for any down time this season.
The New Gibson
It’s pretty clear that not only was Gibson one of the top goaltenders in the league in terms of playing time, but that none of the injuries he sustained had anything to do with him not being a durable goaltender this season.
I understand the concerns over the fact that Gibson played more hockey this season than any other in his NHL career, but there has been nothing to indicate that the time he has missed is due to that lack of durability. If anything, it has been more the product of bad luck than anything else.
Much of the Ducks playoff success will likely rest on John Gibson’s shoulders, as it did in the regular season. There has been little evidence this season that Gibson will repeat last May’s drama of going down with a groin injury forcing the backup to take over and subsequently struggle.
It appears that the 24-year-old has turned a corner this year with taking his conditioning seriously, something he was not necessarily known for. Whether or not this is due to the wake-up-call of the Game 6 loss against Nashville last year or the introduction of the historically reliable Ryan Miller as a mentor is up in the air.
Gibson is likely to be ready for Game 1 of the playoffs. The Ducks are ready to bet their playoff lives on him and by all indications, he appears ready to take on the challenge.