JN AirMail: The Defense Never Rests

In this week’s edition of JetsNation AirMail, we’re all about the defense as we answer the question of who is the Jets best defenseman, if Dustin Byfuglien’s contract will end up hurting the Jets and if Dmitry Kulikov’s contract is the best Chevy signed this summer.

We then also talk about the playoffs, because ya know.. it’s not a jinx or anything like that to talk about the playoffs this early. Is it?

Art M: I think everyone who has followed the Jets would say Jacob Trouba and rightfully so. You may still have some people who cling to Byfuglien as the top defenseman. At the risk of being sent to the gallows though and being dismissed as too insane to manage this site, I am going to suggest for THIS season SO FAR the Jets best defenseman has been Tyler Myers. Look, I know he has his issues, I know some of his turnovers come at the worst times possible, but he leads Jets defensemen in some very interesting advanced stat categories such as offensive and defensive point shares (click here to read more about point shares) as well as defensive zone starts and Corsi For Percentage in even strength situations. The numbers say he’s been solid, my eye-test says overall he’s been reliable. He’s the Jets best defenseman so far. I await all your hate-tweets now.

Cassie: I would say it’s Trouba. Not to take away from the point that is being made about Myers, but when Trouba started to get more ice time, production went up in a big way. So much so, that it started to affect the whole team.

Tony: For me it’s a tie between Trouba and Morrissey. Their quality of competition has been ridiculous and they are both starting to really post impressive numbers both counting stats and underlying numbers. Now for my take on Myers. Art might not like this but I think he has been the weakest D-Man of the Jets top six. His CF (Corsi For) stats have been good playing mostly with the Lowry line (who are dominating) but looking deeper his relative to teammates stats aren’t great and he is giving up the highest quality of shots which leads me to believe he’s more of a passenger than driver of team success.

Art M: There really isn’t anything any of us can add to this that wasn’t already covered by J.D. Burke when he had a fantastic look at Dmitry back on New Years Eve. It’s a piece that is well worth your time to read. To be honest, I forgot the Emelin thing was an actual thing and he hasn’t been the best, but he also hasn’t needed to be a featured, leaned on defenseman in Nashville either. I’d also argue Yannick Weber has been a bit of an anchor for him. About Kulikov though, he’s turned out to be a very shrewd signing by Chevy.

WPGChief: I don’t think it hurts us as much as some assume. Should Trouba not want to remain with the Jets, and Myers continue to play around or lower than his cap hit of $5.5m, the Jets have Tucker Poolman right behind whom has impressed in his short stints. Starting next season, Byfuglien’s contract changes from a full-NMC to a modified-NTC, having to submit a 14-team list of places he does not want to go (and I can assure you the 16 other teams would likely want a Byfuglien on their team, albeit perhaps at a lower cap hit). Though the goals haven’t come this year and additionally being sidelined by injury, there’s no other real reason to assume he’s not a 50 point defender, year-in, year-out. With this contract and its length, the Jets have actually put themselves in a comfortable position of maneuverability should it come to that, or game-winning performances come playoffs.

Art M: To Chief’s point, I don’t think he’s Buff’s contract is that awful and despite his recent struggles since his return, I think he’s still a key member of the Jets defense and should still be a top four guy for the next couple of seasons at the very least.

Cassie: Does he deserve the highest cap hit now? Maybe not, but he did and that’s ok. The other contracts around his are beautiful so they allow for extensions to other key players without much concern. I think with his injury, it does make the contract look bad, but it’s not really bad in the end.

Tony: Buff’s cap hit isn’t that big of a deal. Sure moving it gives Jets more flexibility but the contract that has me worried is Bryan Little.

WPGChief: As it currently stands, according to HockeyViz’s calculations for first-round matchups, Winnipeg is most likely to face a central division team, be it STL (16%), NSH (16%), DAL (14%), MIN (10%), and CHI (10%). In terms of the most dangerous teams, I would like the Jets to stay away from a matchup that puts them against the speedy Nashville Predators or bruising and physical Minnesota Wild – Jets have performed poorer against teams quicker than them, and I would like them to make it into the next round as healthily as possible. With that, I believe going against Dallas, Chicago, and St. Louis – in that order – would be the most preferable matchups. In terms of entertainment, however, I would love to see the young talent of the Jets overcome the vets of Chicago, and prove that they are actually a Stanley Cup contending team by eliminating what many refer to as the most recent modern dynasty.

Art M: Speaking as a fan who was really happy to see the 2011 Jets ‘draw’ the Anaheim Ducks in the playoffs, thinking that those Jets matched up amazingly well against the Ducks, only to be subsequently disappointed, I learned my lesson to never “hope” for a certain matchup. Any team the Jets face will be a tough challenge and should be entertaining as all hell. (If there was a team I’d like to see the Jets beat in a first round match though, it would have to be the Wild. I want that rivalry turned up a few notches.)

Cassie: I think Dallas would be a fun first round matchup, but at this point I think any team would be a great challenge and sure to be entertaining. I disagree that staying away from the Wild is a good idea, mostly because it would be entertaining and would start to push the rivalry in a better direction.

Tony: Anyone from the Central would be fun and the Jets also much up really well against all those teams. Two teams I don’t want to see the Jets play are Las Vegas and Calgary. Their speed scares me.