Sidney Crosby (Gregory Shamus/NHLI via Getty Images)
The Pittsburgh Penguins have high hopes for the 2015-16 campaign, and they’ll rely partially on a sports scientist and massage therapist to avoid injury. Since 2009-10, the Penguins have lost the fourth-most man games to injury in the entire NHL.
No matter how much star talent the Pittsburgh Penguins have, it doesn’t help if those players are watching from the sideline. As such, the Penguins have hired a sports scientist and massage therapist in hopes of keeping players on the ice and out of the trainer’s room.
Earlier this week, Pittsburgh announced that they have named Andy O’Brien as the team’s director of sport Science and performance and brought on Andreas Hüppi as the club’s sports massage therapist.
“We are excited to add such highly-regarded specialists as Andy O’Brien and Andreas Hüppi to our staff,” GM Jim Rutherford said in a release. “We want to look at all aspects of how we train and prepare our players, how we can maximize performance and hopefully minimize injuries. We want to make sure they receive the best information available regarding training, nutrition, rehab and getting proper amounts of rest during a long season.”
And minimizing those injuries will be the key, because over the past few seasons, few teams have lost quite as many man games as the Penguins.
According to ManGamesLost.com, since 2009-10, the Penguins have lost the fourth-most man games to injury with 1,845. Over the five-year stretch, the only teams to lose more players to injury for a longer amount of time have been the Columbus Blue Jackets, New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche. That said, however, no team has ever had a season quite as bad as the Penguins’ 2013-14 campaign.
That season, the Penguins players lost 509 games to injury. The next closest? The Winnipeg Jets, who had players out of the lineup for 329 games because of ailments. That’s a gap of 180 games, or the equivalent of two players missing an entire campaign and then some.
Suffice to say, Pittsburgh, who are now loaded with a talented top-six, can’t have that happen again or it could spell disaster as a season of high hopes approaches.
“I’m excited to work with an organization that recognizes the importance of training, nutrition and recovery, and is committed to an innovative approach,” O’Brien said. “We’re going to establish a methodology around how we develop and care for our players, and will work closely to study that system and make it better year by year. ”
The Penguins said both O’Brien will work with players at both CONSOL Energy Center and the team’s practice facility, while also occasionally hitting the road with the club.
There will also be some familiarity with Hüppi for some of the Penguins players, including Sidney Crosby. Before coming to the Penguins, Hüppi has worked with Team Canada at several international tournaments, including the 2014 Olympics in Sochi.
This past season, Pittsburgh was third in man games lost to injury, according to ManGamesLost.com. Combined, Penguins players missed 320 games, behind both Colorado (378) and Columbus (393).