Time To Weather The Storm
The injury bug has bit early, and the Jackets need to desperately avoid another bad start.
Much of the talk this summer about the Columbus Blue Jackets was their need for a better, faster start. The 2011-2012 campaign never got off the ground. Jeff *arter started out injured and disinterested. James Wisniewski was serving an unprecedented suspension. The team stumbled to a 2-12-1 start, the worst start by an NHL team in 19 years. It was rock bottom.
After the lockout, the Jackets were a bit of a new-look squad. Gone were Rick Nash and Jeff *arter (trade deadline in 2012, actually, for Jack Johnson and a first-round pick that is now Marko Dano). Marc Methot had turned into Nick Foligno. Cam Atkinson and Matt Calvert were going to be regulars. Some backup goalie from Philly named Bobrovsky (who?) came into town. After bottoming out in 2011-2012, fans weren't expecting much. A 5-12-2 start was met mostly with, "Yeah, that figures." Of course, the team finished 19-5-5 and just missed the playoffs.
Expectations were higher entering 2013-2014. We know the rest of the story. A 5-10-0 start put the CBJ in an early hole that took the rest of the season to recover from, though they did make the playoffs.
The franchise is 21-41-9 in the first two months of the last three seasons combined. Woof.
So the emphasis in the offseason was starting faster. There are 164 points available, the team cannot afford to waste opportunities just because it's early. The Metro may have seven competitive teams fighting for their playoff lives this season.
Then...word started to come out that Nathan Horton may not be 100%. A lingering injury from last year? No? A bad back? Hmmm, ok. He'll be fine. Wrong. Horton has yet to skate, missing all of camp with what is being called a "degenerative back issue." He is out indefinitely.
That was followed up by Ryan Murray being held out of camp. He had another surgery on his knee and the recovery process is not quite complete.
Boone Jenner, in a fluke accident, blocked a puck in practice with his left hand. He had surgery on his broken hand and is out another month.
Ryan Johansen, the team's top center, finally signed a contract three days before the season started. He is sure to have some rust in the early portions of this season.
A day later Brandon Dubinsky had abdominal surgery. He is out six weeks.
That can put a damper on things, for sure. Coming off the best season in franchise history, it seems as if any momentum might have been halted.
"A smooth sea never made a skill sailor."
The front office is trying to look at this positively - here's an opportunity for some young guys to show what they've got. Marko Dano is going to get top-six minutes on Anisimov's wing (until Richards changes the lines, of course). Alexander Wennberg will get a crack in the top nine. In a perfectly healthy lineup, they might be in Springfield right now. Same for pre-season stand-out Michael Chaput.
There was some trepidation last year about thrusting Boone Jenner to the top line with Marian Gaborik. He eventually proved to be a valuable player for the Jackets later in the season, especially in the playoffs.
Injuries happen in hockey. It's a high-flying, high-contact sport. Do this many injuries happen to a team before a regular-season puck has dropped? Not usually. But recall that Bobrovsky missed a month last season. Murray did as well right before the playoffs. The Horton / Gaborik combo never really got going.
So we can sit around with our "ugh" and :sad face: responses, but it won't do any good. This organization has depth and a competent front office poised for these kind of situations. It's time to trust that as well as a locker room full of leaders. Let's see what the kids have got. No more complaining about bad luck. Time to go out and fight.