Columbus Hopes Crippled By Injuries
Please spare a thought for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
After narrowly missing the play-offs during the truncated 2012/13 season, the Ohio franchise claimed a wild card spot last spring to extend their season for just the second time in franchise history.
Despite some contract snafus with Ryan Johansen, two seasons worth of improvements created a wave of optimism around the club – the hockey world seemed to be swept up in the idea, or perhaps the hope, that the Columbus Blue Jackets had finally arrived.
But a heap of injuries have severely disrupted the clubs plans this season, and the team currently finds itself in the midst of a 9 game losing streak.
Before the new campaign even began there were concerns about the Blue Jackets health. Nathan Horton was still on the shelf and Ryan Murray, Brandon Dubinsky and Boone Jenner were all hurt.
Horton is still out, perhaps permanently, with a degenerative back problem and Dubinsky remains on the injured reserve, while Murray made a brief re-appearance before going down again.
Jenner is healthy again now, but the Jackets have also lost Artem Anisimov, Mark Letestu and, perhaps most crucially, netminder Sergei Bobrovsky to long term injuries. They were lucky not to lose Nick Foligno for longer as well, after his nasty collision with a linesman.
Despite a point per game pace from Ryan Johansen, the end result is severe disruption to their top 9, with even depth players like Jack Skille and Matt Calvert battling ailments. Combined with the absence of a top 4 D man and their starting goaltender, it’s a situation would impact on even the most well constructed of franchises – let alone one of questionable depth like Columbus.
On Friday the Jackets travel to Philadelphia before beginning a three game home stand; but the damage is already noticeable. 9 points separate Columbus from the play-offs – a not insurmountable number, but one which takes on increasing significance as the season progresses.
As it stands, Columbus need to leap frog at 6 other teams to make the cut. Teams who are also picking up points along the way, and three of whom also have at least one game in hand.
Even if they break the losing streak on Friday, Columbus would still sit 14th in the Conference – as Carolina recovers from their own poor start – and perhaps worse, would sink to the bottom of the entire NHL should Buffalo beat the slumping Wild.
Columbus may not be a team built on star names, but they are a club set up to become greater than the sum of their parts. And when a lot of those parts are missing, things fall down.
The Jackets aren’t licked yet – but equally we’re not far from talking about what Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel might look like in navy blue.