Todd Richards half-joked that, as a young baseball player, he wasn’t very good at hitting curveballs. As a head coach in the NHL, he’s hoping that the Blue Jackets can be patient and get the ball in play.
It has seemingly been one hit of bad news after another, and today, the Blue Jackets were delivered more bad news regarding Brandon Dubinsky. Dubinsky, who was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday, had surgery this morning in Philadelphia to repair an abdominal injury and will miss approximately six weeks.
Add that to an injury list that already includes Boone Jenner (broken hand), Nathan Horton (back) and Ryan Murray (knee) and it’s pretty obvious that the Blue Jackets will be tested significantly out of the gate.
Ryan Johansen took part in his first practice on Wednesday before the team departed for Buffalo, but his status for Thursday’s opener is uncertain, so Richards is calling on his veterans and a number of young players to step up and make the most of a terrific opportunity.
“It’s a big blow, but again, I feel good about this group,” Richards said. “I’d like to have Brandon in the lineup, but everyone deals with injuries at different parts of the season, and we just have to deal with it now. Other players are going to get great opportunities, because Brandon is a guy that plays an important role and logs a lot of ice time, penalty kill, power play, 5-on-5 and key situations. It’s just more opportunities now for other players.”
Dubinsky left practice early on Monday and did not return, and at the time, he was listed as day-to-day but after consultation with team medical personnel and Dr. William Meyers at the Vincera Institute in Philadelphia (who performed the surgery), it was determined that surgery was the best option.
Richards was particularly disappointed for Dubinsky, who committed himself over the summer and trained hard here in Columbus to be in peak shape for the new season. When camp began, Dubinsky felt pretty good, Richards said, but it recently became clear that this was something they needed to take care of quickly.
“It’s disappointing for him because he really was invested,” Richards said. “I think it’s one of those things that maybe he tweaked something or some of it might have been preexisting, but it just led to this.
“Seems like every day it's something different. As (John Davidson) talks about curveballs, it seems like we’ve faced a lot of curveballs early on in this camp, but adversity and dealing with certain issues (is part of it). I think we’ve had a good camp, and now we’re going to kick off with Game 1 and I believe it will make us stronger.”
The injuries are mounting and, for a team that wants to get out to a better start, it may seem like a major road block, but the Blue Jackets aren’t moping around and hoping for something good to happen.
Alexander Wennberg, Marko Dano and Michael Chaput have earned their roster spots based on their performances in training camp, and how much they play will be based on how much they earn, which makes Richards optimistic that they’ll get through this early test.
“You’d love to have your full roster, you’d love to have Ryan Murray in, Brandon Dubinsky in, but there will come a point during the season where we’ll get everybody,” Richards said. “Right now, we have to start the season with a little bit of adversity but it’s a great opportunity for other players.
“We’ll see which players want to step up and grab those minutes. It’s not trial by fire; these young guys have come in, had a good three weeks of camp and they’ve earned this opportunity. I don’t see it as they’re being thrust into it just because there are injuries. We’re confident as an organization that we have some young players ready to step in and that they’ll do the job.”