What a crazy, insane season this has been for the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It started with stars leaving. As such, the team got off to an awful start. Then add numerous, crushing injuries. And yet, the Blue Jackets currently sit in a wildcard spot on points thanks to several players stepping up at key times.
And now, the entire season is on pause. It’s fair to say that 2019-20 has been by far the craziest season in franchise history given everything that has happened.
But now we wait. When will the season resume if at all? Saturday night, the ECHL announced they’ve canceled the rest of their regular season and playoffs.
While we all wait for the next steps in trying to resume a season, the Blue Jackets like all other NHL teams are healing. If there is one thing this layoff will do, it will provide an opportunity for injured players to possibly make a return if we resume play. That could change the whole dynamic of how the season would end as well as how the playoffs would shake out.
The Blue Jackets lead the NHL in total man-games lost this season with 420. They still have six players on injured reserve. That’s quite an improvement for them. At one point, the team had 11 regulars out of their lineup together.
The question many are wondering is what the status of the players on injured reserve. We’ll reset the scene and try to share whether or not we could see these players again this season. Let’s start with the player who was ready to go before the season was put on hiatus.
Resetting the Injured
- Cam Atkinson: The Blue Jackets placed Atkinson on injured reserve on Feb 16. He was expected to miss 2-3 weeks with an ankle injury. The good news here is that he was expected to rejoin the lineup in last Thursday’s game against the Penguins. So the extra time will certainly help him make sure the ankle is good and ready for a potential end of the season. He will come off IR in advance of their next game whenever that might be.
- Brandon Dubinsky: Dubinsky has been on injured reserve since October with a lingering wrist issue. He is still listed as out indefinitely. The team has not updated his status since. This suggests status quo. The thought here was to see if rest would help him get back to playing. But as time has gone on, you see he doesn’t seem anywhere close to returning. You do have to wonder if his time in Columbus could be over this offseason. With one season left, a buyout is certainly a possible outcome especially if he can’t play. The team at some point will update his status. Could surgery be an option again? We’ll see where this goes. He hasn’t played in a game since the Game 6 playoff loss to Boston. He scored his last goal in Game 1 of that same series.
- Seth Jones: Jones was placed on IR on Feb 10 after fracturing his ankle in a game against the Colorado Avalanche. He underwent surgery in the hopes of being able to return this season. The expected timeframe announced was 8-10 weeks. It will be five weeks since the surgery on Tuesday. Eight weeks is Apr 7. Assuming all goes well in rehab and the season does resume at some point, we could see Jones again this season. Obviously a lot of things have to fall into place. But we can’t rule out that possibility now. He had the surgery in the hopes of returning for a potential playoff run as opposed to no surgery and being done for the season. That decision could have an impact at some point.
- Josh Anderson: The Blue Jackets announced on Mar 2 that Anderson underwent surgery to repair a posterior labral tear of his left shoulder. Full recovery for this is expected to take 4-6 months. That puts his timeline to a place where he’d be ready for training camp. There was plenty of talk surrounding Anderson leading up to the deadline, including lots of interest from Boston. Apparently Florida was willing to deal Vincent Trocheck to the Blue Jackets in an Anderson deal to which the Blue Jackets said no. This story will be worth monitoring into the offseason. He is an RFA with arbitration rights. The Blue Jackets want him back but will they be able to find common ground given that he scored just one goal this season? Will there be a repeat of their last negotiation? Several teams at the draft would lineup for Anderson’s services.
- Alexandre Texier: On New Year’s Day 2020, the Blue Jackets placed Texier on IR with a lumbar stress fracture and was announced to be out indefinitely. Indefinitely is appropriate here given the injury and what’s expected in recovery. The key to overcoming this injury is rest. The first month is devoted to rest and then a physician will determine how to handle from there. Most who recover from this with no setbacks come back at around three months. But if pain persists, recovery could take longer. At the time of the injury, it was likely thought Texier could come back late in the season or in the playoffs assuming all went well. Now with the extra down time, that could help his chances. It is worth noting the team has not updated his status nor has he begun skating from what I’ve seen. So until the team says anything, we must assume he’ll remain out for the foreseeable. Given that he is just 20, one would think the team would want to be extra careful to make sure he is 100% ready before coming back to playing. The last thing anyone wants is recurring back issues.
- Dean Kukan: The Blue Jackets placed Dean Kukan on IR on Jan 3 due to a medial meniscus tear and an AC injury to his left knee. He is out indefinitely. On Feb 7, Kukan agreed to a two-year extension with the Blue Jackets. To date, the club hasn’t announced if Kukan ever had surgery on his knee so it’s hard to pinpoint a timeframe for him. Depending on the severity of the injury, options for treatment include rest all the way up to repair. We are over 10 weeks since the injury. With no further updates given, we will continue to treat him as out with no definite timeline to return. My two cents, when I first saw this injury, I thought minimum of three months. We’re not quite to that point yet.
- Oliver Bjorkstrand: Bjorkstrand is not on IR but does have a sprained and fractured ankle that needed surgery. He is expected to miss 8-10 weeks. So he’s on the same timeline as Jones. On Mar 3, the team announced Bjorkstrand’s surgery. We’ll be at two weeks on Tuesday since the announcement. That puts him to the end of April through the middle of May assuming no setbacks. His availability will depend on if the season resumes and when. It will also depend on if the Blue Jackets make the playoffs as well if they manage to get in. In terms of chances to return, Bjorkstrand is lower on the pole as more things have to break the right way. If we are somehow playing regular season games in May then his return could happen. The most realistic outcome to me is next season. But we’ll see.
It is also worth noting Nathan Gerbe is out with an injury but should be ready to go if the season resumes. These are some crazy injuries and yet not an all-inclusive list as others have already returned to the lineup. Could the Blue Jackets get unexpected help in the next month or two? It’s possible, but it all depends on what happens in the world. The good news is these players are on the road to recovery and each are expected to be 100% at some point. That’s worth celebrating at this point, games or not.