With a Qualifying Round best-of-five looming against the Maple Leafs, the Blue Jackets got mostly positive injury news lately. Seth Jones highlights the good injury news, while Josh Anderson is the most significant letdown.
Jones headlines good injury news for Blue Jackets
This capture the bigger picture: that the Blue Jackets should have quite a few key players back if that Qualifying Round series happens against Toronto. Jones joined Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, and basically the kitchen sink on the injured list this season.
NHL top 5 teams, man-games lost to injury and illness.
CBJ 352 (not counting Dubinsky)
— Man-Games Lost NHL (@ManGamesLostNHL) March 12, 2020
Jones, 25, scored six goals and 30 points in 56 games before injuries derailed his season.
By certain measures, Jones might not be quite the Norris Trophy-level defenseman many believe. His possession numbers are closer to solid than dominant, although some of that might boil down to playing more than 25 minutes per night.
Wherever Jones ranks in the stratosphere, he’s important to the Blue Jackets. So is Bjorkstrand and Atkinson, as this Evolving Hockey GAR Chart reinforces:
Players Blue Jackets might not have in the lineup
You may look at that chart above and believe that Anderson isn’t much of a loss. In the framework of the 2019-20 season alone, that’s probably fair.
In the grand scheme of things, it likely is not fair, though. He’s been a useful player for Columbus for some time now. Anderson also boasts the sort of size and physical play that can make him difficult to handle in a playoff format. He was a handful at times for the Lightning during that shocking sweep during the 2019 Stanley Cup Final.
The Athletic’s Aaron Portzline reports that Anderson is unlikely to be available until at least September (sub required).
That’s a big blow, although it does leave the door open for a return during the postseason — if the Blue Jackets made an even better underdog run than in 2018-19.
A lack of Anderson hurts because, frankly, the Blue Jackets figure to struggle to score — even while healthier. With expanded rosters in mind, look at Portzline’s guesses for the forwards Columbus will have on hand:
Cam Atkinson, Emil Bemstrom, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Pierre-Luc Dubois, Nick Foligno, Liam Foudy, Nathan Gerbe, Boone Jenner, Jakob Lilja, Ryan MacInnis, Stefan Matteau, Riley Nash, Gustav Nyquist, Eric Robinson, Devin Shore, Kevin Stenlund, Alexandre Texier, Alexander Wennberg.
Out of context, the eighth-ranked Maple Leafs probably shouldn’t be big favorites against the Blue Jackets.
Look at the difference in firepower, then consider very different levels of media focus. Put that together, and Columbus is likely to be framed as heavy underdogs.
That’s just the way John Tortorella & Co. like it. With Jones looking good to go, they might just have a shot at making a run.
MORE ON THE BLUE JACKETS:
- Ranking the most exciting Qualifying Round series.
- What about the most interesting storylines?
- Previews for East Qualifying Round matchups, including Blue Jackets – Maple Leafs
- Looking back at the Blue Jackets’ 2019-20 regular season.