It’s been a recurring theme during Blue Jackets training camp: this team has depth.
At the outset of camp, that depth was a roster strength that would alleviate the missing contributions from Ryan Johansen. Now, with the regular season swiftly approaching, that depth is getting a real test due to the one thing no team can control: injuries.
The Jackets are currently without Nathan Horton (back injury) and Boone Jenner (broken hand) to start the season, while Ryan Murray is strengthening his knee and skating in practice but still hasn’t seen game action. Injuries have allowed the coaching staff a longer look at some of the team’s top prospects, as Alexander Wennberg, Marko Dano, Kerby Rychel, Michael Chaput, and Cody Goloubef all remain in camp pushing for spots.
“There’s going to be injuries throughout the year and usually the good teams are the ones who get through them alright," Jackets forward Nick Foligno told BlueJackets.com. “I think we have enough depth in this organization that we can do that.”
The good news for Blue Jackets fans worried about the names missing from the lineup is that the Jackets are certainly not the only team facing those struggles in the late stages of camp. The Metropolitan Division alone has many teams trying to get their big names back on the ice.
The Hurricanes already had question marks entering the season before losing Jordan Staal for the next 4-6 months with a broken leg. Eric Staal just recently returned to the lineup after off-season abdominal surgery.
The Penguins are just getting forwards Pascal Dupuis and Sidney Crosby back on the ice, and still haven’t seen Evgeni Malkin in practice as he recovers from an upper body injury. The Rangers are currently without Ryan Malone, Matt Lombardi, and most importantly Derek Stepan, who will miss 4-6 weeks with a broken fibula. Claude Giroux made his first appearance for the Flyers on Tuesday night after a lower body injury forced him to miss the start of camp.
There may be key players on the mend, but inside the Blue Jackets' dressing room, they feel they have the right players and enough depth to get the job done.
“Right now we worry about who is in the locker room and there are some young guys in this room who have had great camps," defenseman James Wisniewski told BlueJackets.com. "They’re looking to come in and earn a spot. When you’re young, any little opportunity you get...you need to take it. Injuries open the door for other guys to make a name for themselves and take a spot for the beginning of the season.”
Coach Todd Richards only worries about his own locker room, and that’s all he can control. Injuries have kept several rookies in camp for longer looks, but the roster has been difficult to trim regardless with the level of play those younger players have maintained.
Chaput scored again for the Jackets against Carolina on Wednesday night, giving him two goals and four points in six preseason games. Dano scored twice in arguably his best game of the preseason, giving him four points in four games. Wennberg added another two assists, giving him a point-per-game pace in the exhibition season.