Coming in to training camp this season with the Winnipeg Jets, the most intriguing battles were the ones for the 7 or 8 defensive spots. With the likes of Trouba, Postma, Zach Redmond, and a few other up and coming D-men, along with some veterans trying to make it with this club, the possibilities were argued at water coolers across the city for weeks. In the end, some were sent down, some made the starting line up, Ian White was even out right cut, and the Jets took 8 into opening night. Byfuglien, Enstrom, Stuart, Bogosian, Clitsome, Trouba, Postma, and Pardy were the selected men. Coming up on quarter way through the season however things are starting to change, injuries, call ups, and waiver pick ups have once again complicated the situation. Though at this moment, with three injuries, things are pretty clear, however in a couple weeks when you have a healthy bunch once again, what do you do?
At this point the Jets have 7 active defensemen on their roster, with another 3 on the IR. The depth has paid off as the Jets have dressed 10 different defensemen so far, and with Zach Redmond’s season debut looming he will be the eleventh. The long term status of the 3 injured Winnipeg Jets defenders, Paul Postma, Mark Stuart, and Jacob Trouba remain unknown but the sense is at least a couple will return sooner rather than later. Looking ahead, and speculating that everyone will be healthy at some point, which is always a question mark in the National Hockey League, how are the Jets going to deal with their overpopulated blue line. As it has been all year the core seems to be the same. Dustin Byfuglien, Mark Stuart, Tobi Enstrom, Zach Bogosian, and Grant Clitsome all seem to have their spots locked up. Another I would add to that list is Jacob Trouba. Trouba has been a huge pleasant surprise for the Jets, coming in and not only fitting in with the big team, but excelling and was one of the best Jets before his scary injury.
Guessing that those 6 spots are locked that leaves 5 other Jets who have spent some time on the ice fighting for one, maybe two spots with the big club. One you can strike off that list in Ben Chariot. Although a promising prospect, it seemed clear in the Jets 5-1 loss to Chicago November 2nd that Chariot is not ready to be an NHL player. So the 4 left are, Paul Postma, Zach Redmond, Adam Pardy and newcomer Keaton Ellerby who has impressed since being picked up in early November.
Ellerby, a 2007 1st round pick of the Florida Panther has bounced around a little bit in the early part of his career but he has played nearly 170 NHL games, and has some playoff experience. Though not a big offensive producer, Ellerby is a solid bottom 4 guy who will take care of the puck and play a smart game.
Adam Pardy is a 6th round pick of the Calgary Flames in 2004. Winnipeg is his fourth NHL home, after spending time with the Flames, Sabres and Stars. Pardy is a vetran of over 200 NHL games and was brought in to compete for a spot this offseason. Many people were dissapointed with his play in the pre season but Pardy seems to have found his stroke since being recalled by the Jets and offers another very valid option in the bottom pairing or as a 7th man.
Paul Postma was picked 205th overall by the Atlanta Thrashers in 2007. Postma played 38 games for the Jets last season and showed a huge offensive upside, however his defensive play has been called into question. This season Postma played in 8 games scoring no points, 6 minutes in penalty, and an even plus/minus before going down with an injury. The leg up that Postma has in this competition is a one way contract. The Jets will not put him through waivers as it would be an almost certainty he would be taken by another team, so that leaves them with two options. They can either keep him and continue to hope he grows into a strong NHL player, or use him as trade bait.
The final option for the last spot or two with the big club is Zach Redmond. The sentimental favorite was drafted in the 7th round of the 2008 draft by this organization. Redmond got his big break last season when he played in 8 games, scoring 4 points and looking like a top prospect before a nearly fatal accident during a practice in Carolina took away the rest of his season and almost his life. He has battled injury a bit this season but has bounced back and got the call to the big club last week. Though yet to make his return there is much excitement to get him back on the ice.
The Jets have many options and it is up in the air at this point which way they will go. Obviously it will be up to the players to make their best case on the ice for Coach Claude Noel and General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff, there are other challenges to making these choices. Either way the Jets look to have themselves in a pretty good situation with the back end and with more exciting prospects like Josh Morrisey and Brandon Kitchon on their way up, the situation looks like a question that will linger for years.
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