Player Preview: Jim Slater

Jim Slater has been with the franchise since the Atlanta
days after being drafted with the final pick in the first round of the 2002 NHL
Entry Draft. Slater never became a perennial point producer as an NHLer and
instead reinvented himself as a defensive specialist.

Slater has had injury issues for the past two seasons,
playing only 53 games and scoring an alarmingly low two goals and two assists
over that time. For that kind of production, Slater’s $1.6 million contract
looks like yet another questionable contract on the Jets payroll.

PERFORMANCE

Slater extra skater

Slater starts the majority of his faceoffs in the defensive
zone at even strength and that attributes to his poor Corsi levels, but it puts
him in the same boat as players employed in the same role like Boyd Gordon and
Brandon Sutter.

Despite his injury-riddled seasons and dwindling production,
Slater has improved his possession game the last two seasons in comparison with
his poor first season since the switch from Atlanta to Winnipeg where he
recorded a horrible 41.3% Corsi.

To be fair however, Slater’s most common linemates for that
season were Tanner Glass, Antti Miettinen and Chris Thorburn. Not the best of
linemates by any means.

Slater should be able to get back to being a decent
defensive centre and some more production is expected if he can stay healthy.

EXPECTATIONS

Slater’s career high in points also came during his poorest
Corsi season and first with the Jets, but it was only 13 goals and 21 points.
Before the previous two seasons, Slater was consistent at producing between
15-20 points, and there’s no reason to expect anything more or less for the
2014-15 season.

Slater falls under the category of “good dressing room guys
that seem to get raises despite either a decrease in performance or injury
history from GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, but Slater is a useful player (unlike the
Thorburns and Stuarts).

He’s not a real sexy pick in any fantasy leagues, and THN
has Slater’s point prediction below my thoughts at 11.

Nothing exciting to see hear folks, just simply hope his
defensive game doesn’t struggle and you will hardly notice him on the ice.

MAJOR QUESTIONS

1.    
Can he stay healthy?

Once you have more than two consecutive
injury seasons, it’s hard to shake the label of being injury-prone, but in
order for Slater to continue his NHL career passed this season, he’ll need to
stay healthy. At 31 years young, Slater may be looking at his last NHL
contract, so he may be motivated to cash in.

2.    
Where does Slater fit on the roster?

After being injured so much the past couple
of seasons, Slater’s job down the middle was filled in by farm hands like Eric
O’Dell, John Albert and Patrice Cormier. It’s possible that if Slater gets hurt
for any significant amount of time again that one of the aforementioned players
takes his spot for good. O’Dell will likely make the club out of training camp
and will be pushing Slater to perform.

3.    
Can he score more this season?

For his cap hit, Slater doesn’t produce
enough. While the NHL’s salary cap ceiling continues to rise and players start
seeing more $$$$$’s regardless of their role, today Slater is overpaid.

Lou Lamoriello has been quoted saying he’d
pay a checker $5 million if he felt that player had as much to do with a team’s
success as the $5 million first line centre, but that was simply a feel-good
quote.

Slater was likely worth a solid $1 million
when he signed the deal, but until he starts scoring at least 25 points, he’s
not worth it.