The Columbus Blue Jackets are in last place in the NHL.
Perhaps uncoincidentally, the Blue Jackets lead the league in man-games-lost, with 319 games lost due to injury in 51 games, per the popular twitter account @NHLInjuryViz.
"In season" MGL at the All-Star break (i.e. excluding any absences that started from Game 1) (1/2)— NHLInjuryViz (@NHLInjuryViz) February 2, 2023
193 COL WPG
Amazingly, this number doesn't include Alexandre Texier, who has also missed the entire season, though not due to injury. As our own Ed Francis noted, the Blue Jackets are 60% more man-games-lost than Toronto, the second-most injured team. Columbus also has more man-games-lost than the six teams with the fewest — combined. And as our Coby Maier said, the gap between Columbus and Toronto is the same as Toronto and the Minnesota Wild... who are 25th.
Current injured players on the Blue Jackets read a lot like a honey-do list. Jakub Voracek, Zach Werenski, and Jake Bean are presumed to be out for the season. Gus Nyquist may be, too. Justin Danforth, Yegor Chinakhov, and Carson Meyer are hurt, too. That's just today, coming out of the all-star break. Boone Jenner missed four weeks with a broken thumb. Patrik Laine similarly missed a month due to an ankle spraine. Adam Boqvist has been hurt several times, most notably out two months with a broken foot. Nick Blankenburg missed two months after he fractured his right ankle.
All the while, the goalies have similarly battled injuries. Danill Tarasov, who was - in a perfect world - supposed to play a starting role in the AHL as Elvis Merzlikins and Joonas Korpisalo jockeyed for starts in Columbus, has played 13 games this season. None have been healthy for the full season. The injury bug is a roulette wheel, and in this season, it keeps coming up Blue Jackets.
But the reality is that, at the start of the season, when the club was at full strength, the team struggled mightily. The injuries certainly don't help the cause, but this was a team that was destined to miss the playoffs by the time the clock struck November. That's a tough pill to swallow, to be sure. On the other hand, the Blue Jackets may have stumbled (pun intended) into a rather fortuitous situation. Let's say the Blue Jackets were at league-average health. Players like Werenski and Voracek being in the lineup would not make this a playoff club, but they would be more competitive on a nightly basis. In a year with an absolute jewel at the top of the draft rankings, perhaps this is the cost of admission, so to speak.
One can't help but look at the teams on the opposite end of the man-games-lost list and wonder what could have been. The upside is that the organization has had a chance to get a look at players, like Tim Berni and Markus Bjork, to name a few, and as mentioned, this wasn't a team headed for the playoffs regardless.
With 31 more games this season, the Blue Jackets will be regularly undermanned. Here's hoping that the club pays its proverbial tab this year and comes back with a clean bill of health with a fresh slate in 2023-24.