The Columbus Blue Jackets were sitting in a precarious position. After starting the season at 4-2-0, they went into a tailspin, going 2-13-2, thus appearing to solidly position themselves in the Jack Eichel or Connor McDavid sweepstakes, the two consensus franchise-changing prospects in the 2015 National Hockey League (NHL) Entry Draft.
The primary reason for the tailspin was due to being ravaged by injuries to seemingly half of their premier players: Fedor Tyutin, Ryan Murray, Brandon Dubinsky, Sergei Bobrovsky, James Wisniewski, Nathan Horton, Artem Anisimov and Mark Letestu and that’s just to name a few.
This plague of injuries could have been quite justifiable to just about anyone who watched this injury dilemma occur. And while that might have been the case in previous regimes, the new regime and with it, the players who personify the ‘all in’, lunch-pail, blue-collar mentality and with it, tremendous pride would not stand for just giving up on the season.
Since they appeared to have hit their nadir, the Blue Jackets have reeled off 5 consecutive victories and, while they are still towards the bottom of the overall NHL standings, the Blue Jackets appear to have found their groove and, in the balanced and less-brutal Eastern Conference, the Blue Jackets, should they continue to play at this current level of play, still are not out of the Stanley Cup playoff chase.
What has aided the Blue Jackets in their recent run has been the return to health of two particular players: Dubinsky and Bobrovsky. Bobrovsky has been stellar during the past five games, in particular, garnering a Goals Against Average (GAA) of 1.73 and a Save Percentage (Save%) of .949. It’s interesting to note that, much like last season, after Bobrovsky returned from a serious groin injury, that he also ‘flipped the switch’ and started flashing the form that garnered the Vezina Trophy in 2013.
And while Dubinsky has only recently returned from missing the first 26 games due to recovering from abdominal surgery, his presence is felt not on the statistical board or any metrics, but rather in the fiery brand of leadership he brings to every game he plays. He is the lynchpin and the igniter that fires the engine that is the ‘go north’ style that is the Blue Jackets, more so than any other player on the squad.
And while Anisimov, Letestu and particularly Horton (lower back, his career in doubt) won’t be available for the majority if not all of the remainder of the season, help is coming in the way of Fedor Tyutin returning within the next week. Tyutin is arguably the Blue Jackets’ best all-around, most consistent defenseman. What is of a particular concern is the status of Murray, the former 2nd overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Murray has been fighting nagging injuries to both of his knees and his consistency and minute-eating reliability have been sorely missed.
If both defensemen can return soon, and Tyutin is slated to return within the next week, the Blue Jackets solid blueline would receive a much-needed boost which would seriously aid a continued run at the Stanley Cup playoffs.
While the Blue Jackets have dug themselves a significant hole, the recent solid play and the return to health of their key leaders has begun to lift the spirits of the Blue Jackets faithful.