While things are tumultuous at the forward position for the Winnipeg Jets, we have a very different situation on D. The top 6 D-men have been set in stone since free agent frenzy ended back in July. A combination of experience and contracts really dictated who was going to be manning the blue-line for the Jets to start the year.
Morrissey – Trouba
(The two young stud D-men will be patrolling the defensive zone for the Jets and I don’t envy the opposition forwards who will be taking them on. Both guys are smooth skating, puck moving D-men who have a mean streak as well. Physicality? Check. Hard shots? Check. Accurate shots? Check. They transition out of the defensive zone better than anyone else on the roster and can make up plenty of time and space when coming back to defend. Hard not to love these two as the top pairing.)
Enstrom – Byfuglien
The duo has been playing together off and on for the better part of 7 seasons and know eachothers game inside and out. The biggest knock on Byfuglien is his defensive lapses that happen as a result of his offensive habits. Give the big man a partner who can focus on cleaning up after Buff and watch him have another All-Star caliber season. While Tobys game has definitely declined the last couple years he is still the best option to play alongside Dustin Byfuglien. Not only can he predict and adjust to Big Buffs rushes up the ice, he’s still the best left handed defender we have (after Morrissey of course). With sheltered minutes this year, i expect a bounce back season from both the wily veterans.)
Kulikov – Myers
(This pairing has the most amount of questions attached to it. Will Kulikovs poor preseason play carry over into the regular season? Will his back hold up? How about Tyler Myers? He played only 11 games last year and has already missed some time in training camp with a knock. We’ve been told time and time again that Myers is “fully healthy” but will that last? Three major surgeries in one calendar year is worrisome, especially when you consider the soft tissue injuries that kept him out of the line-up late last year.)
Chiarot – Poolman
(Ben Chiarot figures to be the 7th D-man and will be warming up the press box seat. He should only see the ice in the event of injuries. As for Tucker Poolman, the 24 year old out of the University of North Dakota has shown himself to belong in the NHL. A strong training camp and preseason has Tucker, in my opinion, as one of the 6 best D-men so far on this team. However him being waiver exempt and the new 4+ million dollar contract signed by Dmitry Kulikov means he will be playing with the Manitoba Moose before being able to see the ice for the Jets. Should any Jets D-man go down with injury, Poolman would be my first call to step right into the lineup.)
Can this group do enough to take the league’s 7th best offence from last year and give them the stability needed to make the playoffs? We’ll start to find out tomorrow.