Nobody gave the Blue Jackets a chance heading into this season.
The over/under for points this season for them was 83.5.
Then, they started off hot. With a record of 5-3-2, Blue Jackets fans were feeling good about the season, as was head coach John Tortorella.
We're supposed to suck this year. We're just gonna worry about our own business and take it a day at a time.– Head Coach John Tortorella After a 4-3 OT WIN over the Toronto Maple leafs
Then, the injuries came. And folks, they still haven't stopped. This season, the Blue Jackets have seen the following players miss multiple games with an injury (bold denotes player currently on IR):
- Seth Jones
- Oliver Bjorkstrand
- Cam Atkinson
- Alexandre Texier
- Josh Anderson
- Dean Kukan
- Brandon Dubinsky (has not played this year)
- Elvis Merzlikins
- Nathan Gerbe
- Zach Werenski
- Markus Nutivaara
- Alexander Wennberg
- Joonas Korpisalo
- Ryan Murray
Folks, that doesn't seem like a recipe for success.
And yet, here we are. The Blue Jackets, somehow, currently have a hold on the first wildcard position in the Eastern Conference.
John Tortorella has had 33 skaters and three goaltenders play for him over the course of this season, and he has led this team to overachieve significantly.
While playoffs may or may not be in the Blue Jackets' future, there is no reason that fans should be disappointed if they're on the outside looking in after all is said and done.
Young Talent is Ready to Battle
With the injuries we've seen this season, the Blue Jackets have been forced to play their hand in terms of giving their younger guys NHL experience. Kevin Stenlund is a legitimate NHL center. Eric Robinson has shown potential. Liam Foudy looked dynamic in his time up here.
These players (and more) will push veterans for their spot when they return next season. A little competition will be a good thing.
The job that Tortorella has done in Columbus this year is straight-up unbelievable. The Blue Jackets have gone on two long point streaks this season (11 and 10 games) with a roster made up of a good amount of AHL players.
If Tortorella can keep this group battling for a playoff spot, be excited for what he can do with this team when everyone's healthy.
This is the most obvious reason to be optimistic, but I feel that it still needs to be said. The Blue Jackets are missing so much right now, but they're still staying afloat. When those guys are healthy and ready to go next year, the league should take notice.
If you added Seth Jones, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Josh Anderson, Cam Atkinson, Dean Kukan, and Alexandre Texier to this team, they'd be in a pretty good spot, and that's where they'll be next season.
So, no matter what happens down the stretch, remember one thing: the Blue Jackets have an exciting future ahead.