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Why do teams let players play injured?

Vancouver Canucks v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Darcy Finley/NHLI via Getty Images

The broadcast made it sound like Neal Pionk was playing injured yesterday and maybe he is. The question is why? Why are teams more than happy to play guys with minor injuries that are inhibiting their level of play instead of sitting them for a healthy player instead? This does not apply to times of injury crisis when a team resembles an AHL team at best. But when they are healthy a their position? It seems like cannon fodder.

The Jets are not the only team that allegedly does this. Sometimes an injury is fine to play through, but the player is clearly impacted by the injury. The question should not be “when both are healthy, who is better”, but “at this point, who helps our team out more”. A player might be better when healthy, but if they are unable to perform a key skill like shooting the puck or making a full-strength pass, they might actually mean more to the team if they are sitting until healthy.

Injured can be on a sliding scale. Someone can be injured with a small cut under their eye that doesn’t impede their play play or a sore ankle that needs taping or it can mean a not being able to shoot properly because of a non-serious wrist injury or shoulder that is on its last leg. That is when teams need to decide that a player should be sat and kept out.

Playing injured is part of sport. Knowing when someone playing injured is actively not helping the team be better is a key breaking point for them. Also understanding that they might be better off with the player being healthy for the end of the season or the playoffs versus playing under 100% the whole time.

Health is a tricky thing with the NHL as it is with all professional sports. Teams have to figure out what the optimal lineup is for them with injured and younger or less skilled playing in the equation. However, if an injury has an impact on performance it should not be hard to give them a rest and let them heal fully.