The Winnipeg Jets have played two games now since Jake McCabe caught Patrik Laine with his head down and lowered the boom, leaving the young phenom with a concussion and leaving the Jets with a big hole on their first line (second line? Line 1A? 1B?). Coach Paul Maurice decided to replace Patty Boomstick’s 21 goals this season with a player who scored 21 last season and has not, to this point, come close to resembling the player he has been in the past: Drew Stafford. Let’s take a look at how Stafford has preformed in those two games.
Drew Stafford came over in the Kane/Bogosian trade in early 2015 and, prior to this season, had 30 goals and 27 assists for 57 points in 104 games for the Jets. This season, however, he had a mere 2 goals and 5 assists in 27 games and had fans clamouring to get rid of him. Stafford missed almost a month with what was listed as an upper-body injury, but has turned out to be a concussion. The veteran says he’d had some ‘minor’ concussions earlier in the year but this one was a little different.
“But this one was the first time where I was really feeling a lot of the symptoms – the mood swings, the fatigue, the disconnect,” he said. “It’s pretty scary, scary stuff. You got to make sure you take care the brain.”
Prior to the game in Buffalo, he told the Olean Times Herald that he felt he was getting his timing back and that production would follow. He banged in a second period power play goal in a game that later saw Laine go down in a scary moment for Jets’ fans. With Laine out, the powers that be called up Brandon Tanev to take his spot on the roster, but promoted Drew Stafford to fill his spot in the lineup (and put Chris Thorburn in Stafford’s place, leaving young Tanev to sit in the pressbox). Jets’ fans were (once again) none too pleased at the decision making.
At least with Stafford taking Laine’s spot on the top line the Jets should’nt experience any drop off in talent. #Sarcasm
— North End Rick (@NorthEndRick) January 8, 2017
Stafford has performed pretty well playing on a line with Mark Scheifele and Nikolaj Ehlers, though. In the 2-0 win over Calgary on Monday night, he notched an assist on what turned out to be the game winning goal by Dustin Byfuglien in the second period. Then again on Wednesday, in the horrific 7-4 loss on home ice to the Canadiens, Stafford managed two more assists to give him four points in his last three games.
On top of that, Stafford’s underlying numbers have been better as well. On the year, his even strength CF% has been an abysmal 45.5%. But the Calgary game saw him at 59.1% and the Montreal game had him at 63.2%.
All of this is not to say that the Jets don’t miss Laine; the kid’s a stud and we all want him back on the ice as soon as it is safe to do so. But in his absence, Stafford may help provide a little stability to two younger linemates who could use it. With Laine not making the trips out west as the team faces the Coyotes, Kings, and Sharks, it’s going to be, at the very least, three more games without the young Fin and probably more than that. And things are going to go one of two ways here really soon: either the Jets are going to make a push to the playoffs or they are not. In either situation, having Drew Stafford play well is a boon for the team. If they are to make a push, a veteran who is performing can only help the situation. If they’re out of it, Stafford is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season and could be used as bait at the deadline to score some more assets for the Jets moving forward.
Stafford has 6 weeks to build up some of that sweet sweet trade value.
— Ryan Browning (@DJ_Biff_WPG) January 12, 2017