Zach Werenski Injury Will Further Strain Already Weak Jacket Blue Line

Werenski injury will test thin blue line for the Jackets.
Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets
Toronto Maple Leafs v Columbus Blue Jackets / Jason Mowry/GettyImages

The Columbus Blue Jackets lost their third straight game on Wednesday night, a 4-3 heartbreaker in New Jersey. They had the lead three different times, but as their story goes this season, they just could not hold onto it. The Devils tied it up late, and then won it in overtime.

Worse for the Jackets, they had to play the last half of this game without star defenseman Zach Werenski. Though we still have no official word from the team on his status, head coach Pascal Vincent this morning announced that he would be more "week to week" than "day to day".

This is devastating news for both Werenski and the Blue Jackets. In fact, it may very well be the worst thing that could happen to this team; because it's going to further strain their already thin defense corps.

Werenski, 26, leads the team in scoring. Not just amongst defensemen - he leads the entire club in both assists (24) and points (25). He's been standing out on a team that has struggled; sitting 7 assists ahead of second place Ivan Provorov (17) - and three points ahead of Johnny Gaudreau (22). He's 12th in the entire NHL in scoring by defensemen, and is one of just two defensemen (Vince Dunn, Seattle) to be leading his team in scoring at the moment.

More than that, Zach has turned the corner and become a vocal leader for the team this season. This is something that we've been waiting to see out of him since the club plucked him in the first round (#8 overall) at the 2015 NHL Draft. His offensive game has shown huge potential, but this year he was putting that together with more maturity, playing at a 60-point pace while wearing an "A" on his jersey.

HIs injury will mean more minutes for Provorov, and Erik Gudbranson, and Damon Severson; three veterans who are now going to be leaned upon heavily to lead this young team from the back-end on a nightly basis. They all just moved up a notch on the depth chart, which will also lead to more exposure for Jake Bean, and talented rookie David Jiricek.

The injury also means that we'll see a heavier dose of Andrew Peeke, or perhaps Nick Blankenburg (currently on IR, day to day) on a nightly basis. What this all gets to is a potential repeat of last season, which went completely off the rails when Werenski was injured early on. They have better depth this year, but as we have seen so far, it's not necessarily working.

Hopefully, for the sake of both him and the Jackets, this won't have him out long-term. He's arguably the most irreplaceable piece on the entire team; and without him patrolling the blue line, we could be in for a long second half of this season.

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