By now, everyone has heard the news that New York Islanders defenceman and St. Malo, Manitoba native Travis Hamonic has requested a trade out of Brooklyn. Further to that, Hamonic has stated that his preference would be a Western Canadian team. Hamonic has stated that for personal reasons, he would prefer to be dealt to the Winnipeg Jets.
When that bit of news hit the Manitoba capital, speculation arose on what price the Jets would have to pay, in order to bring the Manitoba boy home. Names such as Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd immediately, which is no surprise given the fact that both players are set to become unrestricted free agents on July 1. Other names such as Tyler Myers have also surfaced as a possible chip on the bargaining table.
The one name that arose that was troubling to this writer was Jacob Trouba. Let’s be clear on this. Many names come up during trade talks. Most of it is white noise but it was alarming to hear Trouba’s name in this process.
NHL: Islanders Targeting Jets’ Tyler Myers, Jacob Trouba In Travis Hamonic Trade Scenarios https://t.co/cKr5M3jvTh
— Duane Woods (@Out_ofthe_Woods) November 26, 2015
Let’s go back to the 2012 entry draft. Remember that day? The Jets selected Trouba with the ninth overall pick. Trouba was a standout at the University of Michigan and rapidly moved up the depth chart. The Jets organization saw him as the cornerstone of the defence for the foreseeable future.
Trouba’s rookie season garnered him rave reviews around the league. He earned a spot on Team USA at the World Hockey Championships and if it wasn’t for a neck injury that sidelined him for 17 games, he would have been a serious candidate for the Calder Trophy.
Many thought Trouba regressed in his sophomore season but the analytics don’t show that. Trouba’s corsi was 54.1%, up from 49.9% in his freshman campaign. Trouba’s fenwick also rose from a 49.9% in 2013-14, to 52.6% in 2014-15. This, despite the fact the Rochester, Michigan native suffered a wrist injury that kept him out of the lineup for 13 games.
So far this season, Trouba’s analytical numbers are down from last season (50.2% corsi, 49.6% fenwick) through 23 games.
I asked Maurice about Jacob Trouba today, too. He seems genuinely happy with the 21-year-old’s development behind Byfuglien and Myers.
— Paul Friesen (@friesensunmedia) November 20, 2015
Our own Thomas Drance wrote recently that Trouba’s early season struggles could be used to the Jets advantage. Trouba is a restricted free agent on July 1 and the Jets may use his inconsistent play as leverage in contract negotiations. But if the Jets want to succeed this year and going forward, they need Trouba to elevate his game.
There are ways that the Jets could help Trouba out. For starters, the goaltending needs to be better. Both Ondrej Pavelec (who’s on IR) and Michael Hutchinson are at a .906 save percentage which is below the league average of .915. Perhaps rookie Connor Hellebuyck can reverse those numbers but it’s a risky proposition to ask a goalie with zero NHL experience to be the saviour.
It would also be preferable if Trouba wasn’t paired with Mark Stuart.
Mark Stuart being a wall in front of his net..
Sadly that never works out.
— Art Middleton (@GameTimeArt) November 24, 2015
Mark Stuart continues his streak of being awful but you know grit and heart and what not ?
— Kat (@KitKat_P) November 26, 2015
Stuart has been above 50% in corsi and fenwick only once during his tenure with the Jets/Thrashers franchise. There’s no denying Stuart’s physicality but it does cause problems. Far too often, Stuart will go for the big hit in the neutral zone which leaves him out of position and leads to odd-man rushes for the opposition. He’s also prone to some horrific turnovers which leads to bad things.
It is also worth pointing out that Trouba is learning a new system that head coach Paul Maurice is implementing. Maurice has stressed that his d-men jump up in the play and be more aggressive in the offensive attack. In previous seasons, the Jets played a defence-first strategy that focused on defenders preventing goals and staying back in their own end. Trouba and the rest of d-men are still in adjustment mode. Trouba has a mere 3 points (1G, 2A) in 23 games so clearly, he needs more time to learn the system.
Finally, if the Jets deal Trouba, does that mean they’re abandoning the “draft and develop” mantra they have preached since 2011? When the NHL returned to Winnipeg, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff has taken that approach to heart. In an interview with Stephen Whyno of the Canadian Press at the 2015 entry draft, Cheveldayoff discussed his method.
“We’ve talked about drafting and developing. We’ve gone through the draft side of it, we’ve gone through a little bit of the development side now and in a little while there we’re going to obviously have to look at the long-term side of some of our younger players.”
Trouba is only 21 years old and there are very few defencemen that reach elite status at that age. The Chicago Blackhawks were patient with Duncan Keith and have been rewarded with Norris Trophy caliber play. On the flip side, the New York Islanders quickly lost patience with Zdeno Chara early in his career. They let the gigantic Slovakian walk away. Chara flourished in Ottawa and Boston and is a likely Hall of Fame candidate.
Trouba does have a ways to go before he reaches Hall of Fame level but it would be wise for the Jets to stay patient with their young blueliner. This franchise has a bad history of failed draft picks gone wrong which left the cupboard bare for many years. Trouba has huge potential and it needs to be used and augmented properly by the organization for he and the team to take the next step.