Certainly there is no replacement for winning, but the chance to land a generational talent may be a close second.
That’s exactly where the Columbus Blue Jackets find themselves. And with another injury, this time to center Artem Anisimov, it seems as though they’re going to continue their slide into the bottom of the standings with the only light at the end of the tunnel being a train bearing the name of McDavid, Eichel, or Hanifin.
With Anisimov now out with what’s believed to be a torn triceps that will sideline the 26-year-old for two-to-three months, it’s simply yet another name added to an almost comically long list of injuries. Seriously, it’s hard to fathom, but here’s their injured reserve list: Brandon Dubinsky, Nathan Horton, Mark Letestu, Ryan Murray, Cody Goloubef, Fedor Tyutin, and, now, Anisimov. This isn’t counting injuries that have sidelined James Wisniewski, Matt Calvert, Boone Jenner, Jack Skille, and Corey Tropp.
The Blue Jackets were already going to have to rely on an almost perfect goaltending performance throughout the year to really stand a chance at competing, so, with the injuries, it’s going to be near impossible for the team to land a spot in the playoffs. And speaking of goaltending, even that may not be able to save them as Sergei Bobrovsky missed seven games with a fractured finger earlier this season. No one is safe on this Blue Jackets team.
Where it seems this is ultimately headed is a spot in the Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel sweepstakes, but it also doesn’t preclude them from having their name in the mix for any of the several players that could be outstanding NHL talents. One such name is Noah Hanifin.
For a while now, much of the talk has been about centers McDavid and Eichel. There’s good reason for that and the chances of a rookie forward making waves in their first season is much more likely than a rookie defenseman making the team out of camp. But Hanifin, a defenseman, has long been talked about in the same breath as the duo some have dubbed McEichel.
It’s hard to expect how a defenseman will make the transition, but often the most difficult position to fill, and fill well, is defense. It could happen that one of any three fall into their laps if things continue to go down this road for Columbus.
As of Monday, the Blue Jackets sit dead last in the NHL with 14 points in 23 games. They have the second worst goal differential of any team. They’re in the bottom third of the league in Corsi For, Fenwick For and their low PDO suggests they have room to go up, but not by much.
Without a full lineup, the Blue Jackets are essentially struggling in the same ways the Oilers are. Only, the Oilers are better and their possession numbers are more favorable to what the Jackets have. Columbus has lost four in a row, and losing Anisimov will do little to help matters. And even as players get healthy, is there any reason to rush them back? They’re too far behind to make the playoffs at this point.
That’s not to say the team should tank, but rather to say they need to make sure all their pieces are healthy. This season has already been a trying one, but the injuries are an aberration – this won’t happen again next season and this team, when healthy, is better than their record.
Now add in a McDavid, Eichel, or Hanifin? The injuries may end up the best worst-case scenario for the Columbus Blue Jackets.