The 2011-12 season saw several key players miss significant time with injuries. As you'd expect, these players have additional pressure to step their game up in 2012-13 proving that not only their injuries are a thing of the past but that their production has returned as well.
Here is an abbreviated list of some of the injured players from 2011-12 that need to respond in a big way during the 2012-13 season - assuming one takes place.
The list below is just a small sample of some of the players that need to stay off the IR in 2012-13 and produce in a big way after injuries played a role in their 2011-12 campaigns. Plenty of other players could and should have been included below but in the interest of not making this a novel we decided to just highlight a select few from the large group.
Sidney Crosby - Pittsburgh Penguins
You probably guessed this list would start with Crosby and we weren't about to disappoint. Crosby received a mammoth contract from the Pittsburgh Penguins this summer to the tune of 12 years and $104.4 million. The contract was a bold one for Pittsburgh to hand out considering Crosby skated in a combined 63 games over the course of the past two seasons and it's unclear just how Crosby's head will respond upon receiving another big hit.
When healthy Crosby is arguably the best player in the NHL. He proved that even when he isn't 100% he can be a lethal weapon, scoring 37 points in just 22 games in 2011-12. The Penguins were placed in an awkward situation with Crosby. They needed to reward him for his previous accomplishments as well as lock him up long-term, but they had to do this with Crosby's injury lingering in the back of their minds.
Crosby is clearly the player that needs to have the biggest 2012-13 season following two previous seasons that were both ruined with injuries. He needs to prove that the Penguins weren't insane for splashing out over $100 million for a player that could have further issues with post-concussion syndrome.
David Perron - St. Louis Blues
David Perron's situation resembles the one we discussed above with Sidney Crosby, but on a much smaller scale. Like Crosby, Perron missed significant time due to a concussion (over one full calendar year missed) only to return in 2011-12 and prove that when he's healthy he can be a big offensive weapon. The final tally for Perron in 2011-12 was 42 points in 57 games. Most fans of the St. Louis Blues would argue that if Perron was healthy for a complete season that he likely would have led the team in scoring.
At the conclusion of the 2011-12 season the Blues were placed in an awkward situation where they needed to figure out what sort of deal they should give to David Perron in order to keep the rising star with the Blues. The result was a four-year, $15.25 million deal that will keep Perron with the Blues through the 2015-16 season. Perron carries big expectations into 2012-13 where he will not only have to prove that his post-concussion syndrome is behind him but also that he is the future of the club's offense as the team management expects.
Martin Havlat - San Jose Sharks
Martin Havlat is one of the unfortunate few that carry the tag of "injury-prone" with him through the duration of the regular season. In his first season with the San Jose Sharks, Havlat again missed significant time, appearing in just 39 games. Havlat is an extremely frustrating player. He falls into a rare category of players that have extreme talent but are always hounded by injuries - see Gaborik, Marian.
If the San Jose Sharks hope to right the ship on their dreams of hoisting the Cup it's imperative Havlat is healthy and producing in 2012-13. A duplicate of 2011-12 (39 games, 7 goals and 27 points) will again leave the Sharks coming up short in their attempts to end what has been a stretch of misery for San Jose fans. Prior to coming to San Jose, Havlat enjoyed three healthy seasons in a row - two with the Minnesota Wild and one with Chicago - meaning a healthy season isn't completely out of the question.
Rick DiPietro - New York Islanders
It feels a bit dirty including Rick DiPietro on this list considering the goaltender was just removed from the injured reserve list a handful of days ago. It also feels a bit odd using DiPietro's name under an article title where the word "star" is used. DiPietro, one of the biggest jokes the hockey world has seen in recent memory, continues to find new ways to injure himself all while enjoying one of the most ridiculed contracts in NHL history.
It's now or never for DiPietro. At age 30 (DiPietro turns 31 in September), time is running out for the goaltender to make a positive name for himself at the NHL level. Over the past three seasons DiPietro has only appeared in 42 contests. With six of the first 15 years of his massive contract wasted now is the time for DiPietro to prove he can avoid another lengthy stay on the injured reserve list.
Tyler Myers - Buffalo Sabres
There are certain players that simply can't be replaced when they miss time. Tyler Myers is one of those special few. Absent for 27 of Buffalo's games during 2011-12, the team had the impossible task of trying to patch their defense while Myers was sidelined.
When healthy, Myers was one of the most intriguing young defenseman to follow. In the 55 games Myers skated in during the 2011-12 season, he chipped in eight goals and 15 assists for a total of 23 points. He was a fixture on the power play with three of his goals and four of his assists coming with the man advantage.
As with other players mentioned on this list, Myers is yet another example of a player that needs a big, healthy year in the first year of a new contract. Myers' new seven-year, $38.5 million contract is the signal that Buffalo believes he can anchor their defense for the foreseeable future. It's on him to prove he is up for the challenge.
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Perron isn't alone amongst Blues who could've made this list. See also Andy McDonald, who pretty much single-handedly improved the team's goals-for average by .5 a game when he was healthy and in the lineup. Or Alex Steen, for that matter. Sure, it's a contact sport, and injuries are going to happen, but when a team loses three top-six-caliber forwards for large portions of the year, the drop in offensive output is predictable.
All that said, and this almost feels like a cop-out, but I'd have to go with Crosby here. Even a guy without his injury history, handed that kind of contract, would be under immense pressure to prove that he's worth it going forward. Obviously, he can be an offensive force, just as long as his body lets him. When will it stop letting him? That's the question, really, isn't it.
@helloyellowmike Was referring specifically to Marian Gaborik and Gaborik alone, though I can see your confusion. Marian Hossa has a similar issue.
@miendiem Originally I had a longer version of this post that also included Kris Letang and Carlo Colaiacovo. I ended up editing it down since it came off a bit awkward having two Penguins and (potentially) two Blues on the list.
Crosby is the easy choice and really the only choice. Massive, massive contract. Massive, massive injury that could have lingering symptoms. It wasn't long ago when the idea of Crosby having to retire seemed like a very real possibility. Some $100+ million later, that idea seems to have slipped out of mind.