Injuries Are Crippling Columbus Blue Jackets

Patrik Laine of Columbus celebrates his goal during the 2022 NHL Global Series - Finland match between Columbus Blue Jackets and Colorado Avalanche at Nokia Arena on November 4, 2022 in Tampere, Finland.

On Saturday, star right winger Patrik Laine sustained a sprained ankle in the Columbus Blue Jackets‘ 4-3 OT loss to the New York Islanders. The club announced on Twitter that Laine will miss 3-4 weeks.

Patrik Laine Compounding Columbus Blue Jackets Injuries

The injury bug has struck with a mighty fury in Columbus. Since last week’s 5-2 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers, the news has been all bad for the Blue Jackets on the injury front. During the Flyers game, top defensemen Zach Werenski went down with a season-ending shoulder injury that will require surgery. Nick Blankenburg, an early-season spark plug, was lost for 6-8 weeks with a fractured ankle. Newly signed Erik Gudbranson was lost in the second period with an upper-body injury.

This is the second time Laine has been injured in the early season. In the first game of the year, he suffered a hyperextended elbow. The Blue Jackets are finding out quickly if their organizational depth can keep the club afloat or if Blue Jackets general manager Jarmo Kekalainen will have to make a move to keep the club from plunging into a lost season. Laine joins Werenski, Blankenburg, Adam Boqvist (broken foot), Justin Danforth (shoulder, out for rest of the regular season), and Jakub Voracek (upper body, out indefinitely) with long term injuries, while Gudbranson, Sean Kuraly, and rookie Kent Johnson are battling injuries and are listed as day-t0-day. Already struggling on defence in the early season, the Blue Jackets cobbled together a very young defensive group on Saturday that relied on veteran Vladislav Gavrikov as its anchor.

What This Means for the Future

Kekalainen has some decisions to make as to where this season goes. He’s been saddled with a horrible 4-9-1 start, an offence that struggles to score, a porous defence, and now significant injuries to key players. Kekalainen and the Blue Jackets season may be at a crossroads. Does Kekalainen stick to organizational depth to soldier through the injuries? Or use long-term IR cap relief to make a move to bring in some defensive help in the hopes of turning around the season?

One move that Kekalainen did make was to leave 2022 top draft pick David Jiricek in AHL Cleveland to continue to develop. He opted not to potentially stunt the growth of the skilled 18-year-old defenseman playing on a depleted defensive core. The next month or two could be pretty long for the Blue Jackets fan base.

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