For the Blue Jackets, there's been a silver lining to the postponement of the NHL season.
While safety is obviously the first priority, the extended time off has allowed several Blue Jackets on the injured list to rehab. If the 24-team playoff format proposal is accepted by the NHLPA executive board, the Blue Jackets could gain the services of several players who were on the IR when the season was postponed.
So if the NHL season resumes the Blue Jackets get back from injury: Seth Jones, Cam Atkinson, Oliver Bjorkstrand, Alexander Texier, and likely Josh Anderson. Were really gonna have a Columbus wins the Cup in October in front of no fans type finish arent we?— Justin Bourne (@jtbourne) May 17, 2020
Injury: Broken ankle, 2/10/20
Time projected out: 8-10 weeks
Time since injury: ~14 weeks
As the injuries mounted over the course of the season, Jones was one of the mainstays in the lineup that helped eke out wins. When he was injured, hell broke loose. Jones is the best defenseman in the NHL, and I'll debate anyone on that. The Blue Jackets are so much better with him on the ice, both offensively and defensively. He adds huge penalty kill and power play minutes, too.
Injury: Torn meniscus, 1/3/20
Time projected out: Indefinite, but is now cleared to play per Aaron Portzline of The Athletic.
Time since injury: ~ 4.5 months
Kukan is coming back, and he'll have a tough task to crack the lineup, as the Blue Jackets' blue line is their deepest unit. He's showed promise as an offensive defenseman, scoring a huge goal against Boston in the ECSF last year. I'm not sure that he would make the current lineup, but he'd certainly create more competition and give John Tortorella one more option to consider.
Injury: Broken ankle, 2/21/20
Time projected out: 8-10 weeks
Time since injury: ~ 13 weeks
I cannot possibly stress enough how beneficial it would be for the Blue Jackets to get Bjorkstrand back. He has been their best offensive player this year by a country mile, and has bailed them out countless times. The Danish dynamo has always had the potential to be a star, and he's seized that opportunity this season.
Injury: Lumbar stress fracture, 1/1/20
Time projected out: Indefinite, has not been cleared to play yet.
Time since injury: ~ 5.5 months
Texier is the biggest question mark of the group. Back injuries are a tricky thing, and Blue Jackets fans have certainly seen their fair share of bad ones in the past (see: Nathan Horton). Rushing back from a lumbar stress fracture is the last thing you want to do, especially with a player of Texier's potential. If he's able to go when the season resumes, it would be a big boost on the offensive side of the puck for the goal-starved Blue Jackets.
Injury: High-ankle sprain, 2/10/20
Time projected out: 2-3 weeks
Time since injury: ~ 14.5 weeks
Atkinson has had an up-and-down season so far, but that can mostly be attributed to battling through various injuries. He was set to return against the Penguins on March 12th, but the season was postponed before that could happen. A proven goalscorer and power-play threat, Atkinson would be a great (re)addition to the squad.
Injury: Torn obliques, double hernia, 2/29/20
Time projected out: 1-2 weeks
Time since injury: ~ 12 weeks
Gerbe was an unexpected spark plug for this Blue Jackets club. He endeared himself to fans and earned respect for his gritty play. He always punches well above his weight, and chips in with a big goal here and there.
Josh Anderson is likely still out for a while, and Brandon Dubinsky is still out indefinitely with an ongoing wrist injury.
With Jones, Kukan, Bjorkstrand, Texier (?), Atkinson, and Gerbe back, the Blue Jackets would go from a borderline AHL roster to a formidable threat and a Stanley Cup contender.
We'll likely hear the final word on the 24-team playoff proposal tonight.
The NHLPAs Executive Board (31 player reps) is in the process of voting on the 24-team Return to Play format. Voting could spill over into tomorrow. Should know results tomorrow night.— Pierre LeBrun (@PierreVLeBrun) May 22, 2020
If the proposal is accepted, the Blue Jackets will be one of the teams gaining the most from it.