Now Jets Defensive Coach Charlie Huddy. Photo by FanofPucks
Ah the glory days of summer when depression about one’s hockey club is pure and untainted by Seasonal Affective Disorder.
On Monday we looked at the forward depth chart for the Jets, and today we address the defence. If the season started today, who would the Jets ice? We’ll look at some context and possible training camp scenarios before we end with a group hug and a link to a support network.
The title is meant to indicate that the defencemen are playing in the NHL, not necessarily their quality. As much as Ron Hainsey struggled last season, he struggled against the opposition’s best players every night and the truth is that the Jets haven’t replaced his minutes on the current squad. The result is going to mean a lot of odd combinations for Charlie Huddy and Claude Noel. Below we’ll sort by scoring rates of the known contenders for NHL employment and try to suss out some roles for these men.
EV Scoring / 60 Minutes in 2012/13
- Bogosian (1.06)
- Byfuglien (1.00)
- Enstrom (0.98)
- Clitsome (0.95)
- Pardy (0.94) (BUF)
- Redmond (0.93)
- Postma (0.69)
- Stuart (0.40)
Enstrom and Byfuglien are lower on this list than we’d like to see, but actually in the range of what we can expect again. Byfuglien matched his 53 points / 82 game pace he had his first season in Atlanta, and we may have been spoiled his first season as a Jet when he managed that same 53 points in just 66 games. Enstrom’s injuries are a reasonable consideration but as we’ll see, he did pretty much the same one year previous. We talked about Bogo’s offence when he signed a new deal, and we know it was largely percentage driven as his 10% on-ice shooting % was second only to Clitsome’s 11%. (Third if you count Adam Pardy’s 11.34% in 17 games with Buffalo.) As we’ll see, Bogo had a better offensive season in 2011/12, and luck hid his struggles as he returned from wrist surgery in 2013.
For context, Hainsey managed a rate of 0.75, a smidge better than offensive defenceman Paul Postma during his butter-soft 3rd professional season. Further, Trouba’s Freshman year at University of Michigan has an NHL equivalency of 8-11-19 according to Vollman’s new Hockey Abstract. He won the CCHA Offensive Defenceman award for 2012/13 as a Freshman with those stats. We don’t know his EV minutes, so we’ll have to just pencil him in for ‘SAVIOR’ and leave it there.
Let’s look at a year that makes more sense.
EV Scoring / 60 in 2011/12
- Byfuglien (1.27)
- Bogosian (1.12)
- Enstrom (0.99)
- Clitsome (0.76)
- Stuart (0.64)
- Pardy (0.33) (DAL)
That’s the Adam Pardy we know and… well, we know him. Clitsome’s 3 year, $6M deal looks a little less exciting next to that scoring number. We also know he played the softest minutes available that year and was a negative possession player. We can hope 2013’s better overall results are a sign of growth and better linemates.
We return to the Ron Hainsey problem. As we talked about in our prospect review, the team has a dearth of left handed defencemen at every level. Either Clitsome or Stuart are going to be asked to step into Hainsey’s spot in the top-4 without much evidence either are capable. At the end of the order, Paul Postma was given an oddly timed 2 year, one-way deal this off-season, as both Trouba and Redmond are looking to earn his roster spot and could already be the better players. Pardy is coming off an injury-plagued three seasons and never established himself above a 7th man on poor clubs.
Just like Old Times: Enstrom – Byfuglien
The pair that had so much offensive success in 2011/12 will return as the team’s top pairing. Enstrom’s calm play and easy transition play help Byfuglien exit his own zone, and we watched Big Buff struggle without his little Swedish buddy this year.
Tough Minutes?: Stuart – Bogosian
Last year the Hainsey – Bogosian pair were used against the other team’s best, started a ton in their own zone, and played huge minutes. This year we probably see Bogosian’s partner change according to circumstance. For now, Stuart stands in as a candidate for the defensive assignment.
Hit Parade: Clitsome – Trouba
It is very possible the team elects to send Trouba to St John’s to start the year. For now, all signs point to Trouba being capable of beating all-comers for the 6th defenceman role, and if he makes it, Clitsome makes sense as a complimentary partner. Huddy may give him a mentor to cover for mistakes in Stuart, but someone has to get the puck out, and those forwards will be coming fast for Trouba’s first month or two. The team prefers stable pairs historically, but as we saw when injuries forced Derek Meech into the lineup, Huddy doesn’t mind double shifting Bogo and Buff. In other words, the team may employ Postma is usual 12 minutes and send Trouba for seasoning.
Pressbox: Pardy / Postma
Pardy is on an inexpensive contract and brings some NHL experience. It’s hard to call it a poor signing. Nevertheless, he will be in an injury fill in, and should Enstrom go down again, will be a structural challenge for a Jets team that relies on scoring and puck movement from the backend. In fact, he’s kind of a new species of defenceman for this club and it’s hard to know how he will fit. Postma is waiver eligible and unless that second year is meant as a poison pill to make sure he gets through, he probably earns his $712K in Manitoba instead of Newfoundland.
Training Camp Battles
There aren’t many battles this season, with a weak and shallow cast of possible defenders at the bottom end of the roster. Out of respect to Redmond, we again we do it Madden style. i.e. WITH PICTURES!
Redmond impressed fans in his limited 8 game stint before losing the season to injury. He played over 19 minutes a game against easier opposition, had 4 points and was -1 in a 2-6-0 stretch of hockey in which the team was -5. He is not waiver eligible, though, and will likely start his season with IceCaps. A really impressive camp could see him steal the #6 job.
As mentioned above, Trouba is in this battle to some extent. Really, the team has a maximum of two jobs available and Trouba, Redmond, and Postma are looking to fill them. The organzation has given Postma the push in terms of contract committment, and he also is the only one who is waiver eligible, giving him the inside track.
One possible scenario is that the team only keeps 7 defencemen up, sending Trouba and Redmond back to the IceCaps in order to hold Halischuk or Gordon on the roster, in addition to the ‘Unhelpful Trio’ of Peluso, Wright, and Thorburn. This would make a sense on the forward side of things, but once again we have to wonder if the team will do whatever is necessary to ice the best roster. If Trouba is better in camp than Postma, will the team pay Postma $712K to play another season of minus hockey in St John’s? We discussed the possibility that Gordon and Halischuk beat out Wright and Peluso for work. Can we imagine a scenario in which the team pays Postma, Wright, and Peluso a collective $1.9M to play hockey below the NHL level?
Despite Cheveldayoff’s remark that the evaluation starts when the puck drops, the contract situation he’s organized suggests the team is mostly set.