Cody Chalfan The Hockey Writers
Blue Jackets: The 5 Most Significant Injuries of 2019-20
It was a tough season of injuries for the Columbus Blue Jackets. They had a league-leading 420 man-games lost and had up to 11 players missing from their roster. While the team was bogged down by injuries, some were more significant than others. This article will countdown the five most significant injuries of the 2019-20 season. The criteria used to rank them is how well backups performed, how well the team did without them, and depth at their position.
#1: Seth Jones
The most significant injury for the Blue Jackets this season was that of All-Star defenseman Seth Jones. He went down on Feb. 8 against the Colorado Avalanche. He fractured his foot on a drive to the net in the first period, but continued to record 23:35 of ice time and scored the team’s only goal. After a successful surgery, he was slated to miss 8-10 weeks.
The significance of this injury was clear from the start, despite the team’s defensive depth. He had a team-leading 25:17 average time on ice and 30 points (6 goals and 24 assists) with a plus/minus of plus-10. This made him a difficult player to replace.
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The team had started the winter strong but struggled once he went down in February. They had a record of just 3-5-6. They also gave up 3.57 goals against average (GAA), a massive increase from the season average of 2.58 GAA. The franchise missed their star defenseman, but he will be back in time for their play-in round against Toronto.
#2: Cam Atkinson
The second most significant injury was right wing Cam Atkinson. He has missed significant time with a nagging ankle injury that was first sustained in a Dec. 19 game against the L.A. Kings. He missed 2-3 weeks and then re-aggravated the injury a few games into his return.
This injury was significant because the Blue Jackets lost a big portion of their offense. He has averaged 33 goals in the last three seasons. Due to decreased play time, this season he has scored just 12. Combine this with very little offensive depth, and the franchise struggled to find offense this season.
The Blue Jackets’ offense struggled to cope with his injury. They scored only 180 goals, 28th in the league. He will be available for the play-in round against Toronto.
#3: Oliver Bjorkstrand
The third most significant injury for the Blue Jackets was Oliver Bjorkstrand. He was put on injured reserve (IR) for 4-6 weeks for a rib injury. He returned for a spell, then went back on IR for 8-10 weeks after fracturing his ankle against the Philadelphia Flyers.
His injuries were significant. He was the best goal scorer this season, leading the team with 21 goals despite being on IR twice. The offense was struggling and the most consistent weapon missed extensive time. That put stress on an already depleted offense.
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Bjorkstrand is a pure goal scorer. If he didn’t spend extensive time on IR, he would have most likely closed in on 40 goals. That would have been a much needed offensive boost for the team. Like Jones and Atkinson, he will be ready to go against Toronto and bring a boost to the offense.
#4: Joonas Korpisalo
In fourth place for most significant injury is Joonas Korpisalo. He went down with a meniscus injury on Dec. 28, after a controversial clock issue. He was placed on IR for 4-6 weeks. Elvis Merzlikins came in to replace Korpisalo in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Normally when a team loses a starting goaltender, they struggle, but the Blue Jackets’ backup played well. Merzlikins went on a streak, that included five shutouts in a span of eight games. Goaltender Matiss Kivlenieks also saw some quality playing time as well, including a 2-1 win over the New York Rangers.
While at first glance this injury seems devastating, it wasn’t. The franchise was able to build great depth and skill at the goaltender position. Due to the management of the organization, they were prepared. What could have been the most significant injury of the season dropped to fourth.
#5: Josh Anderson
Fifth on the list is Josh Anderson’s shoulder injury. He only played 26 games this season before a posterier labral tear put him on IR for 4-6 months. He is out for the rest of the season when it resumes later this summer.
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This injury was major. He brings skill and physicality to the team. He had 214 hits and had 27 goals last season. He also brings size to the Blue Jackets. His 6-foot-3 frame combined with a weight of 222 pounds has been a force in the past. The loss of 27 goals of production and speed was disastrous for an already struggling offense. Losing his speed also hurt, an aspect that seemed to be missing this season. His size and physicality will be missed as an advantage over Toronto because he will not return this season.
Even though Anderson was missed, they played well without him. When he went down after only 26 games, the team went on an 11-game point streak from Dec. 9 to Jan. 2 with a record of 8-0-4. He also wasn’t up to his usual explosive standards, scoring just 3 goals in 26 games. With these two factors in play, his injury falls to the fifth most significant.
Conclusion: Enough Star Power Returns
While it has been a tough season for injuries, they have plenty of skill when healthy. Four of the five most significant injuries will return for the play-in round. I think that will be enough talent for the Blue Jackets to advance to the first round. Fans should be excited about the ceiling of a healthy team.
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