Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Losing Their Best

Tobias Enstrom is a pretty important cog in the Jets organization. He is clearly one of their top players and defencemen, and he plays in every situation. There's no exaggeration in saying that head coach Claude Noel relies on Enstrom to be a defensive force. In playing with the Dustin Byfuglien, Enstrom is the safety net that bails out Byfuglien far too often that anyone would like to admit. So losing the Swedish-born defenceman would be a blow to the team in every sense of the word. And that's what happened in the game against the Florida Panthers when Jack Skille threw a big check on Enstrom when he was in a vulnerable position. The result? Enstrom is out with an "upper body injury" and will have to put a call into St. John's to help bolster the roster for their game against the Islanders on Thursday.

Losing Enstrom is potentially devastating for the Jets on this road trip, their longest of the season. They still have the state of New York to play - the Islanders, Rangers, and Sabres - and the New Jersey Devils. All of those teams are teams that the Jets are trailing in the standings, so losing their best all-around defenceman doesn't help.

Enstrom, as stated above, is Byfuglien's safety net. While it would be far too premature to say that Enstrom looks like fellow Swede Nicklas Lidstrom, Enstrom does control his zone very well, and settles his team down whenever he had the puck. He makes smart outlet passes, he doesn't take penalties, and he's a quiet leader. In short, he's very important to the Jets.

It appears that the call will be made to St. John's at some point before the team arrives on Long Island. Ron Hainsey, Mark Stuart, and Tobias Enstrom are all out of the lineup at this point according to reports, so I wouldn't be surprised to see some of the IceCaps in Jets uniforms before the Jets play the state of New York. Who should get the call?

I'd hedge my bets on Paul Postma getting the call. Postma leads the IceCaps with 12 points, and has looked very good early on for the IceCaps. I think Mark Flood has a shot at getting a call. Head coach Claude Noel knows Flood very well from his time with the Moose last season, and he was a difference-maker for the Moose late in the AHL season last year. Another player who could get the call would be Brett Festerling. Festerling has bounced between the NHL and AHL for a while now, and this could be a great chance for him to show the Jets his mettle. With any of these three defencemen, the Jets are getting a quality player added to the line-up.

However, losing a top-quality defenceman like Enstrom mean the rest of the blueline will have to carry his share of the load. Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Randy Jones, and Johnny Oduya will have to play much better to prevent this road trip from turning into a nightmare. The easiest way to do that is to simplify their games: passes up the boards to wingers, standing opposing forwards up at the blueline, and ckearing the puck when given the chance. Giveaways and bad passes will kill this team - seen already in this season - so the blueline will have to be better.

Losing Enstrom will hurt the Jets, but they can survive this rash of injuries. It will take smart play, a little luck, and some savvy at their respective positions, but the Jets can certainly turn this negative into a positive. Here's hoping they an take down the Islanders on Thursday with their best defenceman on his way back to Winnipeg.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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