At the start of December, I was getting frustrated. We kept hearing that management wanted to see the team at full health before really evaluating where they stood. That sounded like yet another excuse. Injuries happen. As Matt pointed out, some pretty darn good teams have dealt with serious injuries and it hasn't been a crutch for them.
Then Sergei Bobrovsky went down. And as these things go in sports sometimes, the team rallied around its backup (and its backup's backup) goalie. They didn't just tread water, they gained ground. Hats off to Curtis McElhinney and Company.
Then players started coming back, most notably, Marian Gaborik. And then he went right back down with injury.
I got frustrated again, and here's why. The idea of the team being fully healthy is nothing more than pure fantasy. Pick any sport, then pick a playoff contender. I'll show you a key player on that team that has missed time due to injury this season. Management knows that, coaches know that, and fans know that. It's not so much that it's an excuse, but it's an attempt at sleight of hand to distract from the issue.
Yet, the Blue Jackets still hover around the .500 mark. And now Nathan Horton is back. Sergei Bobrovsky is back. Dalton Prout, Matt Calvert. And while, inevitably, someone else will get injured between now and the end of the season, let's give some credit to the guys who rallied in December and the start of January. Tropp, McKenna, Skille. Let's give credit to the players who have stepped up this year. Johansen, Murray, Dubinsky. Umberger and Foligno have found a groove.
I certainly hope the group doesn't lose sight of what got them to this point. I hope Horton and Bobrovsky aren't expected to contribute more than their fair share too soon, because that's often what leads to re-injury.
In sports, all you can ask for is to be in the hunt and to control your own destiny. The Blue Jackets are in the hunt. Their play over the next month will determine if they control their own destiny. I'm optimistic of their chances.