Everyone knew that three Columbus Blue Jackets starting defensemen, Ryan Murray, Fedor Tyutin and Nikita Nikitin, were out with, allegedly, minor injuries. What the club just found out — or had kept tight to the vest — is Murray is likely to miss the rest of the season. His “day-to-day” hiatus suddenly became missing four-to-six weeks after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery.
Murray has been an invaluable contributor to the Jackets this season. Despite being a rookie, he has shown remarkable calmness, poise and a wisdom for where to be on the ice that transcends his age. He’s been one of Columbus’s most steady defenseman. He’s accomplished all of this after suffering a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the entirety of last season.
The silver lining in all of this is the Jackets do have an embarrassment of riches to fill this exact void. Tim Erixson, Dalton Prout and Cody Goloubef have all shown the ability to log quality minutes at the NHL level. The future is bight at the Blue Jackets’ blue line. The problem here is they are all young, unfinished products who lack experience — especially at the playoff level.
Columbus’ crucible to earn a playoff spot just became a lot more daunting.
An announcement being made at this juncture is also curious. There’s simply no way the club didn’t know the severity of Murray’s injury suffered in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Why tell everyone his return is just around the corner for so long? Probably to keep league general managers in the dark over the club’s new-found defensive desperation and to keep the buying price for defenseman low at the March 5 trade deadline. This very well could have played a major role in their acquiring Nick Schultz from the Edmonton Oilers for just a fifth-round pick.
If the Jackets are to beat the Nashville Predators tonight, their new D unit will need to find chemistry and jell as one ASAP. The Chicago Blackhawks exposed them to the tune of a 6-1 thrashing in their last outing. Nashville, though lacking the firepower of the Hawks, may smell blood in the water and pounce on this recently developed weakness. All things considered, the Blue Jackets have no excuse to not earn a victory in this one.
The solid Blue Jackets suddenly seem vulnerable. A quality outing against a former division rival would go a long way in reversing this perception and adding crucial points in the standings. Fans thought the playoff race began in earnest after the 2014 Winter Olympics, but the Jackets’ crucible really begins tonight in Bridgestone Arena.