Revolving Door of Injuries Brings Up Big Questions for Blue Jackets

By Nic Hendrickson on February 27, 2020 at 10:15 am
Elvis Merzlikins
Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

The 2019-20 season has proven to be a revolving door of injuries. It seems that every time someone is activated off the injured reserve and reintroduced to the lineup that another is out for multiple weeks with any sort of injury. This has proven to be the exact storyline that can explain the majority of the season for the netminders.

This season saw both Joonas Korpisalo and Elvis Merzlikins come out to struggle, but when the former got going he was top notch. Korpisalo proved to be the starting goalie that many were worried he might never turn into, earning an All-Star selection in the process.

In that time, Merzlikins struggled heavily. And when Korpisalo went down against Chicago it seemed as if the season was as good as over. That's when Elvis decided to show his true colors and put out a dominant display of goaltending and bring a very big question into play - who is going to be the starting goaltender next season?

And now, with Korpisalo finally returning, Merzlikins is down again - timetable unknown - after a hit to the head against the Ottawa Senators. Leaving the former to have time, yet again, to prove his worth and make his case as the long-term starter.

This question isn't usually what you expect to ask when you're more concerned with who is healthy, but with Matiss Kivlenieks coming up and proving to be a relatively reliable backup option, it makes for a more interesting conversation. You have two goaltenders who have proven to be starter material with a third goalie likely being the reliable backup, an equation for success for the organization.

To look at this at a more logical perspective, it would be best to play off the contract situation, age and sample size of each of the goalies. Both Merzlikins and Korpisalo are set to become restricted free agents this season, so that is a wash, with neither of them being on extended terms with good cap hits.

As for age, that is also a wash, as both of the netminders are 25 years old. So what it really comes down to is the sample size, which also comes back to play a role in the contract situation. You have one goalie who has shown glimpses of excellence, proven to be a reliable starter and even has an All-Star nomination to his name. The other has helped sustain the success this season, despite injuries galore, and has shown immense ability.

So while in most situations a long-term injury can mean an opening for one player and the closing of a door for another, this revolving door of injuries has never seemed to close the case here. And if there is one thing that can be said, the Jackets have quite the organization-altering decision ahead of them in regards to goaltending.

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