The Blue Jackets limped to the finish line of the 2021-22 season.
For the final game Friday in Pittsburgh, forwards Sean Kuraly, Boone Jenner, Patrik Laine and Alexandre Texier were out of the lineup with injuries, as were defenders Adam Boqvist, Zach Werenski and Nick Blankenburg in addition to goaltenders Daniil Tarasov and Joonas Korpisalo. In total, the Jackets lost 362 man games to injury over the course of the season.
For Brad Larsen, though he was disappointed the Jackets were out of the playoffs, there was a silver lining in the fact that his team wasn’t trying to make a late push for the playoffs with a banged-up roster.
“If this was a playoff race and you’re losing the caliber of guys we were losing, that would’ve been real frustrating,” Larsen said. “It would’ve been devastating. But that’s a part of hockey. Everybody goes through it. I saw teams just this last week that are losing key guys. I’m sure they’re saying the same thing and they’re going into the first round of the playoffs. Unfortunately, in this business, it’s hard to stay healthy. “
At the final media availability of the season on Saturday, many players provided updates on their health heading into the offseason.
Blue Jackets captain Boone Jenner doesn’t expect back injury to limit his offseason training
Jenner essentially pulled himself out of the lineup after a game against the Minnesota Wild on March 11, telling Larsen that his back injury had become too painful to play through. He was placed on injured reserve and didn’t play again for the rest of the season. At the time of the injury, Jenner led the Jackets in both goals and points, and was on pace for the second 30-goal season of his career and a career-high in points.
This is the third time Jenner’s back has caused him to miss time, which is naturally concerning for a player who plays as hard as Jenner does. He previously missed 40 games in the 2014-15 season with a stress fracture and missed seven games in early 2017 with another back injury.
But after more than seven weeks of rest and rehab, Jenner said Saturday that he feels good and is expecting to resume skating soon.
“For right now, I feel great,” Jenner said. “Going into the summer, going back into my summer training and skating pretty quickly here. I’m lucky and I’m happy to be feeling good again.”
Jenner said that surgery on the injury was not a consideration.
Sean Kuraly facing four- to six-week recovery from broken toe
Early in the third period of a game against the Oilers on April 24, Kuraly missed a check on an Edmonton player and hit his foot toes-first against the end boards. He finished the game, but as soon as he stepped off the ice, he knew his toe was broken.
Kuraly broke the knuckle of his right big toe and will be in a boot until approximately the end of May, around four to six weeks. He joked that his summer golf plans will be curtailed temporarily but otherwise does not expect the injury to limit his summer training.
“You’d be surprised how much you use that (part of your foot),” Kuraly said. “There’ll be no golf for a while.”
Driving has also been a challenge, but he said he’s learned to drive with the boot; using his left foot was out of the question.
“It might not be the safest way,” Kuraly admitted. “I do keep my other shoe in the car. This morning, I had both shoes on and I drove with my shoes. I put (the boot) on when I get out. Can’t do the left foot. I tried that. It doesn’t work. ”
Patrik Laine expects upper-body injury to be resolved soon
Laine had a challenging year with upper-body injuries, first missing nearly two months with an oblique strain suffered in November while also taking time off to grieve the death of his father.
Then, in mid-April, Laine once again left the lineup with an upper-body injury. He was a game-time decision April 17 against Anaheim and was ultimately scratched from that game while being listed as day-to-day. He didn’t play again, finishing the season with 26 goals and 30 assists for 56 points in 56 games.
Laine didn’t go into specifics about his injury Saturday but said it’s a short-term injury.
“It’s gonna be a secret,” he said, half-jokingly. “No, it’s nothing big. It’ll be fine in a few weeks or so.”
His participation in the upcoming IIHF World Championships in his native Finland is still up in the air. Laine said a decision will likely come this week as he evaluates how he feels.
Zach Werenski will likely miss the World Championships with a broken nose
Werenski felt like he had a target on his head for most of the season. He had two concussions, the first two of his career, and a jaw injury before his season was ended April 28 in Tampa with a broken nose caused by a deflected puck.
At the time, Werenski thought there was no serious damage and finished the game. But when he went for a precautionary X-ray the next morning, he discovered his nose was broken and had to have surgery to put it back in place.
His nose won’t take long to heal, but it will keep him from participating in the World Championships.
“It seems like every year at the end of the year I got something going on,” Werensky said. “I was excited to go to the World Championships. It sucks that I probably won’t be able to. I’ve got to do something this summer to make the hockey gods like me again.”
Joonas Korpisalo, Daniil Tarasov recovering on schedule from matching hip surgeries
In late February, rookie goaltender Tarasov had season-ending hip surgery to repair an injury suffered Jan. 1. Almost exactly four weeks later, his veteran counterpart Korpisalo had an identical surgery, though Korpisalo had been playing through the injury for a few seasons.
Korpisalo appeared at exit interviews using a single crutch to support his healing hip and expressed his desire to be rid of the crutches entirely as soon as possible. Both Tarasov and Korpisalo are expected to be ready for the start of the 2022-23 season, with Tarasov slightly ahead of Korpisalo’s schedule.
“It’s been me and him on the trainer’s table for the last four weeks,” Korpisalo said. “He’s just four weeks ahead of me. He was a great help about it. I was kind of asking him how the procedure was and the first week. He helped me a lot with that.”
Though Korpisalo is a pending unrestricted free agent, he said his primary offseason priority is rehabbing his hip, which had been an issue for years.
“I think I’ve been fighting with the last four years or more,” Korpisalo said. “It gradually got worse. When I thought I couldn’t do stuff on the ice, what I was supposed to do or how I wanted to do it, then I was like, ‘OK, let’s pull the trigger and get it done. ‘ I feel really good going into next year after getting this done. “