Injuries to Blue Jackets Regulars Have Led to Uncertainty As They Look to Finalize Their Roster

By Dan Dukart on September 27, 2017 at 9:15 am
Pierre-Luc Dubois
Aaron Doster - USA TODAY Sports

It would be unreasonable for any team to expect to make it through an entire training camp and preseason completely unscathed.

Still, it's hard to believe that it's been this complicated for the Blue Jackets. In a preseason that's existed in the shadow of an ongoing contract dispute with Josh Anderson, lingering injuries have become more of a story. With less than two weeks until the puck drops on the 2017-18 season, injuries to two key players could have significant ripples on the opening night roster.

Boone Jenner has a nondescript 'middle body' injury and has still not taken part in a full practice. Brandon Dubinsky's recovery from offseason wrist surgery has recently allowed him to participate in contract drills in practice, but he's not yet participated in a preseason game. The hope is that's not too far off.

Both are dependable leaders on a playoff team with serious expectations. But both can play center (Dubinsky has centered the second line for a number of years) and that may be the key.

Remember, this is a team that is challenged by a lack of depth at the center position. If Jenner and Dubinsky are unable to make themselves available by next Friday, the opening night roster could feature some unexpected names. It's easy to forget about a guy like Jordan Schroeder, but he, too, is hurt (upper body). Schroeder was brought in from Minnesota to provide insurance at center for the organization. 

Another guy who has had an impressive camp is Zac Dalpe, another versatile center, and he could be a true dark-horse candidate to make this team given the current injuries. 

Pierre-Luc Dubois has looked more comfortable on the wing than at center through a handful of preseason games, and it appears he's practically guaranteed himself a roster spot. Tyler Motte has impressed in recent days and, like Dubois, has the ability to play both the wing and center. 

Nick Foligno can play center and has gotten a few opportunities from John Tortorella in the preseason, but he's a better fit on the wing. Sam Vigneault, a free agent signing out of Clarkson, was having an impressive camp before he broke his finger. Veteran PTO John Mitchell has been steady down the middle of the ice and got a long look on Tuesday. He's played 548 games in the NHL and could be a dependable stopgap until a guy like Dubinsky could return.  

Penciling new players into a lineup has lasting ramifications on others. Sonny Milano and Markus Hannikainen are two wingers who will be sweating through the last few days of camp. Milano is still on his entry-level deal, which could work against him, as the team wouldn't require waivers to send him back to AHL Cleveland. Hannikainen is solid and was rewarded with a one-way contract, but a lack of versatility and offense could limit his ability to make the team (disclaimer: I think both make it).

On one hand, it's helpful for the Blue Jackets to have 6-8 'bubble players' of depth, but it could also force some of their decisions closer to the wire. The cuts are coming and some of those who remain in Columbus may only do so temporarily, and the Blue Jackets will need everything they can get from them.