The Blue Jackets played another solid game on Monday night, but for the fourth game in a row they came out on the wrong end of things. The Dallas Stars took an early second period lead and never let the scrappy Jackets into the game until less than 15 seconds remained, eventually skating away with a 2-1 win. While the loss in the standings stings; the loss of another key player is crippling and has me questioning: What did we do to deserve this?
Yegor Chinakhov skated just one shift for 37 seconds last night because of a freak injury (warning: not pretty). As he tried to defend a point shot, he pivoted away from the puck and turned in the same direction as Ryan Suter along the boards. Joel Kiviranta comes in and fires a wrist shot towards the net, colliding with his own teammate (Suter), then falling over him and landing directly onto Yegor’s left leg, causing it to bend awkwardly.
At first glance, this does not look good at all. The first thought I had when I saw the play was that it’s likely an MCL injury, which could put Yegor on the shelf long-term depending on the severity. We should see an update from the team today, and all we can do is keep our fingers crossed that he’s okay.
It’s another casualty in a long list of casualties this season. Just four players have played in all 31 of the team’s games to this point (Andrew Peeke, Vladislav Gavrikov, Gustav Nyquist, and Johnny Gaudreau). The Jackets have already used 32 different skaters and 3 goalies this year, and currently have 8 players on IR with another (Cole Sillinger) out day to day.
In over 30 years of following hockey at various levels, I can’t recall ever seeing a team so decimated with injuries to key players. If you go back to the opening night roster, this team is missing its entire top defense pair, one each from the second and third pairs, it’s top line center, second line winger (last year’s leading scorer, Jakub Voracek); a backup goalie, and if Chinakhov is out now we can count out the entire third line.
And it’s not just the guys who are out of the lineup – the guys that are in the lineup have been banged up as well. Sickness has run through the dressing room. Patrik Laine has hit the IR for long stretches twice already. Vladislav Gavrikov has been shaken up by more than one puck hitting him in a bad spot.
Last night, Tim Berni seemingly escaped serious injury twice – once an awkward fall into the end boards while tracking back for a loose puck, and the other time blocking a shot off the hand. Which, by the way, is exactly what has Boone Jenner on the IR.
Whatever bad mojo is going on with this team is incredible. They have already lost around 170 man games due to injury this season, a number which is set to grow by a full 10 in every game they play until guys start returning.
Adam Boqvist seems closest to getting back; he’s been skating with the team for the last week or so. Cole Sillinger is listed as day to day, which means he could be returning at any time. Aside from these two, it seems like Joonas Korpisalo could make his return at any time – the team listed him as out “about a week” last week.
But they’ll still be without at least 6 players – possibly more, depending on the outcome of Yegor Chinakhov’s situation; or any other injuries that may pile up. Three guys are out for the year: Zach Werenski, Jake Bean, and Jakub Voracek. While Justin Danforth would be a very late season return, if at all.
We certainly aren’t the only ones. Every team deals with injuries, including last year’s Cup winning Avalanche – they’re beat up as well. But, for a team whose best aspirations were a playoff bubble spot, this season’s IR list is basically a death sentence.
Look no further than the last four games. They’ve honestly played pretty well. The defense has been better, they’ve gotten strong goaltending, and they have put some pressure on four of the best teams in the league.
What do they have to show for it? An 0-4 record with a 14-4 goal differential. This is what it looks like when you have a team full of AHL players. They work hard, like they’re playing for a job … but the talent just isn’t there to contend with the best teams.
The only thing we can hope for from this season decimated by injuries is a little bit of lottery luck from the hockey Gods. If this team can come back healthy next fall with the addition of a top center prospect, we’ll all probably someday look back on this fondly as the year that cemented our status as a contender.
We can only hope.