I suspect in the next 72 to 96 hours the Winnipeg Jets will quietly reassign Mark Scheifle back to the Barrie Colts. Sure he has done what was asked of him and has not struggled but if we know one thing about the Jets management is that they are not going to rush a players development.
Every move they have made has been a calculated one. The signing of Olli Jokinen in particular was done in a large part to give Sheifle more time and reduce the urg to force him into a top six role this season. Sure one could argue that he is ready for that opportunity but why do it now? If Friday’s comeback win over Pittsburgh with Mark sitting in the press box proved anything it was that the Jets don’t need Scheifle to make the playoffs.
He won’t be the player that pushes them over the edge and if the jets do make the post season he won’t be the difference between elimination and hoisting the cup. That’s not to say Scheifle couldn’t help the Jets, he’s just not going to be a difference maker for them.
There are not many that would argue that fact at this point in Mark’s career and Kevin Chevaldayoff and company know it better then all of us. So at this point they have to ask what is best for Mark long term and his growth and development into a future top line centre or second line centre in the NHL with the Winnipeg Jets. Will playing the rest of the shortened season on the forth line with hard working character guys like Jim Slater and Chris Thorburn be in his best interest? Or would returning him to the Barrie Colts who still sit first overall in the Eastern Conference and where despite playing only 30 games is tied for forth in team scoring with 49 points only 7 back of Zach Hall?
Lets take a moment to explore both options.
There is no doubt that morally this is where Mark wants to be and he’s committed to playing a forth line role to do so. Players like Slater and Thorburn could really help mold Scheifle into a pro in what would certainly be a tough and grueling shortened season. He will have two guys on the ice that can still make plays but are better known for shutting down the opposition and dropping the gloves when required. We know Mark would be well protected at the very least, but over a season would focusing too much on the defensive side hinder his offensive talents which seem to have blossomed this season in Barrie or will it make him an even better two way player then he already is?
There’s no doubt the defensive side of Mark’s game would get stronger and help him learn how to be responsible in his own end against some of the leagues best players, but that would only happen if the coach trusts to use him in that situation like he trusts Slater and Thorburn. It wasn’t coincidence or just time for a break that saw Scheifle sit out against the Penguins. It was a calculated move by a smart coach who did not have the confidence to put Mark out against the likes of Crosby and Malkin. And really who can question that logic?
For Scheifle to learn enough to warrant keeping him on the roster he would have to play against the best in the league not just watch. Once and a while can be useful, but he needs to gain the coaches trust.
If we look at the young career of Boston’s Tyler Seguin we can see that easing into the NHL on a third/forth line can work. Heck he even spent time in the press box, including the start of the playoffs until injuries gave him a chance and he helped make a difference in the Bruins winning the Stanley Cup. But we’ve also seen the promising prospect rushed into the league in a role they aren’t used to, learning it and achieving no higher. Winnipeg in its first go in the NHL saw that happen with far too many draft picks.
Mark took the reassignment in stride last year and while he would be disappointed he will respond positively if this happens again this year. In Barrie Mark will be back centering the teams top line and within a week or two back leading the team in points too. Since December 13 the Colts are 8-6, prior to that 24-8. With Scheifle back into the fold the Colts will have a good chance of winning their conference and an outside shot at catching London for home ice through the playoffs.
Either way Barrie will make the post season and Scheifle will have the opportunity to lead his team on the path to a Memorial Cup. Even if the Colts did win the Memorial Cup it doesn’t guarantee success in the NHL but the ability to win big games is something you have or don’t have, just ask Roberto Louongo.
Now the point can be made what more does Mark have to learn by playing in Barrie? A valid question at the surface but when you ask a few other simple questions the answer to the first becomes crystal clear. Has he led the league in scoring? Does he dominate games every game? Has he won a championship? Does he play in a system completely different from the Jets?
The simple answer to those questions are no and there is much he can still learn playing for Dale Hawerchuk in Barrie. One more season in juniors will give him a chance to play the role he is meant to play for the Jets. Next year he’ll be a year older, a year wiser and a year more experienced, and so too will Olli Jokinen and maybe then it will be time for him to cut his teeth on the third or forth line. Ease into the NHL game an d the following year when Jokinen’s two year pact is up, he’ll he a shot at centering the Jets top duo of Evander Kane and Blake Wheeler.
The future is bright, but patience is the key. What do you think? Should Mark Scheifle be sent back to Barrie?