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Frei column: Why do Avs seem so vulnerable to injury? Good question



UPDATES: Bo Byram was practicing in a regular jersey Friday, so the Avalanche clearly were satisfied that he hadn’t suffered a concussion in the first period against the Canucks the night before. “So Bo made it through practice OK,” Jared Bednar said after practice. “They’ll check on him after and see how he’s doing. Early indications say he’s a player for us (Saturday against the Sharks).” But then on Saturday, Bednar said Byram wasn’t feeling well and wouldn’t play that night

It isn’t often that I belittle the premise of my question in the process of asking it.

But that’s what I did Thursday night as I brought up injuries with Avalanche coach Jared Bednar.

I also admitted I was doing it, since the chances of such things as taking an elbow to the head — as Bo Byram did in the first period and was done for the night with a possible concussion — have nothing to do with conditioning or work from the medical, training, conditioning or coaching staff.

I noted that the Avalanche had 52 man-games lost after their 7-1 rout of the Canucks. Bednar had a right to be in a good mood, since six different Avs scored and — even without Nathan MacKinnon, expected to be out three weeks with a lower body injury — Colorado played its best game of the season. Yes, the loss of Byram in the first period was a bit sobering, especially since he suffered a concussion last season and missed significant time.

“Is that it?” Bednar responded. “Fifty-two? It feels like double that.”

I continued, asking if he was confident there was nothing he could do to lessen the vulnerability to injury.

“I don’t think it’s conditioning,” he said. “Because we test our guys thoroughly in training camp. Like our guys are putting in the work. They’re hard working guys. They’ve all come in really  good condition. I was actually impressed with the way our guys came into camp.

“We’ve had some nagging groin stuff. But our guys are all on maintenance programs, strengthening programs and haven’t had problems before. It’s just sort of the nature of the game. Injuries come in different ways and different times. It seems like when you get one, you get a bunch. Every team goes through it, we’re just going through ours now. Vegas is going through theirs now. Hopefully we can get healthy and get the band back together and keep playing some good hockey, regardless of who’s in the lineup.”

I get it. The preponderance of circumstantial  evidence argument is out there, and not just about this season.

Another game, another injury.

Sometimes even another day, another injury.

Man-games lost can be misleading because the players out vary in importance, and the four man-games lost Thursday night were MacKinnon, Pavel Francouz, Martin Kaut and Stefan Matteau. Notably, though, Mikko Rantanen, who scored his fourth and fifth goals of the season against the Canucks, has missed three games, Cale Makar two, Valeri Nichushkin nine, and MacKinnon will be out a while.

At the opening of Bednar’s post-game session, I asked him about Byram and whether he was concerned it was a concussion. (Colleague Adrian Dater used some of it here.)

Bednar responded, “Yeah, exactly.”

Is it a concussion?

“I don’t know,” Bednar said. “They’ll reevaluate him in the morning. . . We’ll see what the symptoms are. If he has any.”

Contrary to what you hear at times, the Avalanche is not the only NHL team that suffers injuries — both to significant and secondary players. You’re not going to get me aboard the they-must-be-doing-something-wrong bandwagon short of conclusive evidence of malfeasance.

But it’s a pain in the lower body.

Terry Frei ( is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sports writer of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His web site is and his bio is available at

His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here

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