So with a very important stretch of games ahead for the Jets, it will be interesting to see what GM Kevin Cheveldayoff does with this team nearing the deadline if they are out of reach of the playoffs. Lets look at a few of the factors that currently haunt this team and how they might be rectified.
Believe it or not, the Jets roster has some pretty good talent on the back end. Say what you want about the Jets, but there is no denying the fact that they have quite a few of the puck-moving type defensemen. The only problem with those afforementioned puck-moving types is that they are generally not as strong in their own end. Case in point....Tobias Enstrom. There is no denying that the small defensemen has a great first pass out of his zone, and also possesses the ability to skate it out when needed. The problem with Enstrom is that he doesn't keep his head on a swivel and constantly loses track of players in his own end. Not good. You can add Ron hainsey to this list as well. Bigger than Enstrom, skates like the wind, pretty good first pass, but also loses himself in his own end.
Then you have Zach Bogosian. He has high-end skill with the puck, a huge shot, and although he can also lose track of players in his own end, he is always paired with a guy who has been nothing but a standout since game 6 of the season. Johnny Oduya. Now keep in mind, I never really paid any attention to Oduya during his career. I knew the name well enough, just never really watched the Swede play. The thing is, after paying attention to him, I have come to realize just what a quality defensemen he is. He skates tremendously well, doesn't lose composure in stressful situations, has a great first pass out of the zone, and as I mentioned before, he makes Zach Bogosian an animal. Without Oduya, Bogosian would be much more of a defensive liability than he seems.
Mark Stuart is as much of a stay-at-home defensemen as you can get. He is loathe to carry the puck out of the zone, and I think he gets cold sweats every time he crosses the opponents blue line. He blocks shots with reckless disregard to his own health and will occasionally drop the mitts even when he knows he will be getting it fed to him. This is one of those heart-and-soul guys that will just do whatever it takes for your hockey club and although he isn't a fantastic defensive defensemen, you still need him on this team for the intangibles.
Mark Flood is the best defensive defensemen on the club. Due to the fact nobody has ever heard of him, he doesn't receive much fanfare, but anyone who truly knows the game will appreciate what this kid does. He is rarely caught out of position, has a high hockey I.Q. and unless you are paying attention, is pretty invisible. At some point this kid has to stay up with the big club full time as some GM will finally claim him off waivers when he gets sent back to St. John's.
In my humble opinion you need to have a balance between the stay-at-home, and the puck movers. Too many of either does your club absolutely no good. I think this club needs to move at least one of their puck movers to bring more balance to their back end.
That brings us to Dustin Byfuglien (I still hate typing that name). The big fella has been injured for the last 8 games or so and many are saying that his absence has directly contributed to the Jets losing record during that time.
That is just plain wrong. The Jets have lacked spark, looked disinterested at times, and generally have just plain looked bad in their defensive zone. Byfuglien's presence on the ice does nothing for them defensively. That is just not his strength. We are not talking Zdeno Chara defensive ability here folks. What Buff gives you is that wild card factor in which he will carry the puck deep into the offensive zone, drop it off to a forward in the corner, and proceed to supplant himself in front of the net and dare you to move him. Good luck with that. The problem is that the Jets truly need him more on their top line as a forward than they do on the back end.
Now in saying that, I fully accept the fact that this team has next to nobody that will scare you offensively. Other than Evander Kane (who if you believe the reports, may or may not be a prima donna) there really is no real offensive threat that an opposing team needs to deal with. If Blake Wheeler had any hands whatsoever he would be a 40-goal guy. His speed and size make him a force to be reckoned with, but his lack of scoring touch is atrocious. Alex Burmistrov has the hands that Wheeler so sorely lacks and at some point will be a 30-40 goal scorer in this league. Andrew Ladd has received a lot of criticism for his play and for good reason. Ladd is not a top-three forward. He is barely a top-six guy. He is there to bring to the forward group what Mark Stuart brings the defense. Heart. That and leadership. Right now he is not bringing anything but poorly timed penalties and quality post-game sound bites.
The question I have after looking at this core group is whether or not Kevin Cheveldayoff has the stones to make the deals needed to improve this club. If Kane truly is a cancer in the dressing room and is too big for his own britches, does Chevy have the intestinal fortitude to pull the trigger on a deal to send the Jets best player packing.
I have always believed that the best organizations don't put up with any player who thinks he is bigger than the team he plays for. Those players never seem to find themselves on the rosters of teams like the Red Wings. Nor do you find them on the other elite organizations rosters. Think about it. The stars on the best clubs never give off that air of superiority (other than Luongo) that can bring a teams dressing room to its knees. The truth of the matter is this. If Kane is a problem, stick to your laurels and deal him. The rest of the dressing room will respect you for it and you will be sending the message that those types of players and that type of attitiude will not be tolerated in this organization.
I for one sure hope that Chevy proves his worth and pulls no punches. If he finds out that there is a problem with a player, any player, then pull the trigger and make the deal. If you want to build a champion you need to do what the champions do. Demand that your players play for the emblem on the front of the jersey, and not for the name on the back of it.