December 16 2014 12:34PM
Today is a tough day in the “Heart of Canada” as the depth of the Winnipeg Jets defence just got a little bit thinner, and the end of the tunnel is nowhere in site.
It was announced this morning that Jacob Trouba joins the long list of injured Jets rearguards and is expected to be out until February with an upper-body injury. This is terrible news for a team like the Jets seeing as they are already missing two of their best defencemen, (Toby Enstrom and Zach Bogosian,) for at least the remainder of the month.
In his second season with Winnipeg, Trouba has been arguably the best defenceman for the Jets, leading all d-men in scoring with 12 points (4g, 8a). Four of which came while on the powerplay. The Rochester, Michigan-native had also been on a tear recently scoring nine points in his last 11 games.
Since the injuries to Enstrom and Bogosian, Trouba’s game had picked up immensely, aside from his point total quadrupling, he was leading all Jets defencemen in time on the ice, averaging 23:33 a game. The next closest Jets player was Dustin Byfuglien, who recently transitioned back to the point, with 20:59 TOI/GM.
In better news Grant Clitsome will be returning to the lineup tonight for the Jets and will take Trouba’s spot in the lineup. But the pairings will be all shuffled up for the next couple of weeks. Byfuglien and recent call-up Ben Chiarot will remain paired up for the time being, while Grant Clitsome will be paired with Adam Pardy at this time. Trouba’s longtime defence partner Mark Stuart will be paired with Paul Postma, who is starting to prove himself as an NHL caliber puck moving point man.
A few issues worry me about Trouba’s injury and the amount of time he will miss for an almost surprising Jets team this season, who currently sit fourth in the Central Division with 36 points in 31 games.
Issue #1: Lack of Production from the Point.
As much as it pains me to say it, Winnipeg will not be getting as many points from the backend as they were when Trouba was healthy. The 20-year-old led all Jets d-men in points and was starting to find his offensive game over the past few weeks. Unfortunately guys like Adam Pardy (0g, 4a), Ben Chiarot (0g, 2a) and Grant Clitsome (0g, 1a) will not be able to make up the points lost by Trouba (4g, 8a), Enstrom (1g, 8a) and Bogosian (0g 8a). Sure the Jets have moved Dustin Byfuglien back to the blueline and he has fit in nicely. I’m just worried that Jets forwards will be expected to produce more with points from the point decreasing.
Issue #2: Defensive Depth?
The Jets have been blessed with a strong two-position player in Byfuglien, and he has played well since moving back to the point, but what happens if he also goes down with an injury, or Stuart, or Postma or any of the other defencemen on the team? Grant Clitsome has proven that he can’t stay healthy all season, when is the next time we see him on the shelf? I don’t think the Jets have the depth at defence for any more injuries at this point of the season. Who would you call up next, unproven guys like Brenden Kichton or Julian Melchiori? Even Keaton Ellerby is injured down in the AHL; at least he’s played some NHL games. The cupboard is pretty bear.
Issue #3: Continuing Success.
One of the biggest reasons to the Jets success this season has been their play in their own zone, and the play of their goaltenders. With such an overhaul on defence with these recent injuries, will the Jets be able to maintain their defensive play that has been often credited to why the team is currently fighting for the playoffs this season. I don’t know if I can put my hope in the defence right now, but I really want to, for the team’s sake.
Issue #4: Forward Ranks.
With Byfuglien manning the point for the foreseeable future, Winnipeg now has a
glaring hole in their forward lines. Byfuglien at the time of Enstrom and
Bogosian’s injuries was playing on a line with Mark Scheifele and Evander Kane,
and was proving to be a strong second line for the Jets. Since then the lines
have been shuffled up and Kane is now on a line with rookie centre, Adam Lowry
and Matt Halischuk. Where I’m getting with this is because of Byfuglien’s
transition to defence, Winnipeg’s forwards are lacking the punch it had with
Byfuglien upfront. But because of Trouba’s injury, the forwards are expected to
pick up the scoring slack for the time being. See where this is going to be a
problem? Now hopefully when Bogosian and Enstrom return, Byfuglien may move
back up due to the play of guys like Clitsome and Chiarot. Or best-case
scenario, the Jets forwards rise to the challenge and prove me wrong.