Hockey Headlines

Saturday, 28 July 2012

Key Cog Is Signed

The kid with the long stick is officially back with the Winnipeg Jets as Tobias Enstrom signed a five-year, $28.75 million deal to remain part of the Jets' blueline. There have been many discussions about Enstrom in the last couple of weeks at my workplace regarding what the Jets could get for him if they explored trading him, but the new signing is proof enough that the quarterback for the Jets powerplay is going to be a key cog for the Jets moving forward. Honestly, I like Enstrom and I believe that he certainly brings a lot to the table in terms of his skill, but he's still young and he can improve.

Enstrom was injured a couple times last season, but there was no reason to believe that he wouldn't have hit 41 points in 82 games had he played them all. While his 33 points in 62 games showed that he has the talent, the one place that I am concerned about is in front of his own net.

Enstrom isn't a very big man by any standard in the NHL. He only stands in at 5'10", and his 175-pound frame is often pushed around in front of his own net. If anything, Enstrom has to find a way to bigger without getting bigger. I know that sounds odd, but Enstrom needs to find a way to move larger bodies from in front of the net. Otherwise, he needs to use that extra-long stick he carries as a poke-check nightmare for opposing forwards. Either way, his one area to improve greatly on, in my view, is in front of his own goalie.

Having cleared that out of the way, I think Enstrom has the potential to be something special for Winnipeg. He has the smooth skating needed to carry the puck up the ice and his hands are soft enough and accurate enough to distribute the puck well. He should be able to lead the team offensively from the back end alongside Dustin Byfuglien, but Enstrom showed some excellent defensive play last season when Byfuglien would get caught pinching.

I think this is something that gets overlooked in a lot of circles - the value of a sound defenceman. There have been many good offensive defencemen - Paul Coffey, Larry Murphy, Mike Green - that have lacked a solid and sound defensive game. Enstrom is usually the first man back, and often the only man back when the opposition is bearing down on the Jets' net. He plays angles well, he rarely gets beat one-on-one, and he hustles hard. In short, he's not quite in the comparison range with countryman Nicklas Lidstrom, but he's definitely showing potential to be a likeness of the former Red Wing great.

Does Enstrom deserve a contract with a cap hit of $5.15 million annually based on his stats alone? Not in my world. But sometimes you have to go deeper than the stats. Does Brooks Orpik deserve a $3.75 million cap hit for his offensive contributions? Probably not, but the Penguins see what he brings to the table in other facets of the game. Orpik is worth the investment because of all of the other intangibles he brings - solid defence, big hits, and leadership. Signing Enstrom to a deal like this one where he is paid more? I can live with that due to his scoring ability and his intangibles.

Enstrom will play a large role in any success that the Jets have in the coming years, and this contract is pretty fair for both sides. As long as Enstrom can continue to put up points and play sound defence, I don't think there will be anyone calling for his head over the next five years. He had a solid start in his tenure with the Jets, and I'm confident he'll continue on that path.

I'm happy that the Jets are beginning to lock up some core pieces. They signed Pavelec, they signed Enstrom, and now they just need to get Kane's signature in ink on contract. Once they do, the Jets will certainly be looking good for the future.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

1 comment:

TedNes said...

Enstrom's play reminds me of that of my son---or should I say my son's play reminds me of Enstrom's?----well, and the way I played as well.....No, there is nothing wrong with a solid (dare I say stay at home?) defenceman that plays a solid but perhaps not flashy game......

Breakout pucks up the ice accurately, pucks spread around the offensive zone well, that's more important to me in a defenceman than a booming shot that might hit the net 2-3% of the time. God I love a good poke-check----nothing changes the direction of play faster if it's executed well at the right time. I like Enstrom's style, and I think Winnipeg did the right thing signing him, ensuring steady if not flashy play on the blueline for the next 5+ years...