The Jets play the Detroit Red Wings on Valentine’s day this year. It will be a very special Valentine’s, as it might be the next time the Jets have a healthy blue line.
With Enstrom out since November 23rd, Bogosian since December 3rd, and Trouba in the infirmary until February, news hit today that Mark Stuart will join his defence partner for 6-10 weeks with a lower-body injury.
Inside we’ll look at who the Jets have to play against Boston tomorrow, and who we might see over the next few weeks.
Injuries to the top-4 defenders from opening night is catastrophic to any club, but in the Jets case, has had a silver lining. Dustin Byfuglien has been a force on the blue line since being returned to his defensive duty. The consequences of the team losing so many of its experienced options included getting arguably their best defender back in his place.
But things are far from good. The latest injury to veteran Mark Stuart leaves Dustin Byfuglien and AHL call-up Ben Chiarot as the team’s top-pairing, with the recently healthy Grant Clitsome in the #3 spot. Thanks to a deal with Carolina, left handed addition Jay Harrison joins Adam Pardy in the ‘big bodies with questionable decision making’ department, while Paul Postma becomes the team’s only right handed option behind Buf. Twenty-eight year old Julian Brouillette remains the 7th man, awaiting a chance to step into his 11th NHL game.
Brouillette’s 73 points in 271 AHL games over five partial seasons hide that he was an undrafted ECHL walk-on in 2007 and last left the league behind in 2012. He’s undersized, not known as a strong defender and, in fact, his greatest asset is listed as his puck moving abilities here. That’s not encouraging given his boxcars, but he does bring more experience than many of the other AHL options.
Who Else is Available?
GM Kevin Cheveldayoff made the rare move of acquiring an NHL-level player today in Jay Harrison. In a less well publicized move, the St John’s IceCaps also signed Ryan Parent to a PTO today. It was a thin defence group entering the season, with the now injured Keaton Ellerby ostensibly the team’s 8th defender and just 17 total bodies split between two teams.
If I’m not mistaken, the only healthy defenders available for NHL recall are Brendan Kichton (31GP 3-7-10, -12), Julian Melchiori (31GP 0-3-3, -8) or 26 year old AHL-hand Will O’Neill (28GP 5-7-12, -9). Parent aside, the IceCaps only currently have 7 healthy defenders themselves, making a call-up problematic.
Oh, and you might have noticed that none of those players are really blowing the doors off during St John’s season of struggle.
Hold Me, I’m Scared
The Jets have a relatively easy schedule into the holiday break with just Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago left before getting some time off. But two games against Minnesota – currently hunting the Jets for a playoff spot with games in hand – and the upstart Islanders close out the year.
It’s anticipated that Bogosian and Enstrom will return at some point in the next 2-4 weeks, but it could be dicey until they do.
God speed, Jets’ defenders.