A lot to be optimistic about, but Trouba deal a huge question mark
After arguably the most important offseason in the short history of the reincarnated Winnipeg Jets, answers will start to flow on Oct. 13 at MTS Centre.
Most important? Thanks to a lottery ball, the Jets have a potential pure goal scorer for the first time since moving to Winnipeg. They also locked up the player they expect to be the franchise’s number one centre for years to come, and hopefully have gotten Jacob Trouba inked to either a bridge deal or a long-term mega deal.
After enduring almost an entire season last year with the cloud of uncertainty hanging over the futures of Andrew Ladd and Dustin Byfuglien, this season will see the team with all of their key pieces locked up – if a Trouba deal gets done.
There were many reasons last year’s team flopped on the ice, but it is hard to imagine the uncertainties with Ladd and Byfuglien didn’t loom large.
Will Patrik Laine live up to the hype; will Mark Scheifele live up to his massive new contract; will Connor Hellebuyck have wrested the starting goaltender position away from the embattled Ondrej Pavelec; and will Trouba be in the opening night lineup at all??
Of course, those are some of the key questions, but there are others. Is Kyle Connor ready for the big time or will he need some AHL seasoning with the Moose? Is Josh Morrissey ready to make the jump to the NHL? And for the first time, there are legitimate questions about which forwards will make up the team’s third and fourth lines with so many potential options.
There is a lot of optimism amongst Jets faithful, and speculation around the league, that something special is building in Winnipeg. But all the potential in the world doesn’t automatically equate to success, and the questions posed above are enough to cast doubt on this team’s chances of overcoming last season’s step back after their 2015 playoff appearance. At this point, the biggest factor remains Trouba. As the Winipeg Sun’s Ken Wiebe pointed out, the Jets defence corps have to have a bounce back year in 2016-17:
“The defence corps was supposed to be an area of strength for the Winnipeg Jets last season.
While there were some strong individual performances coming from the back end – especially from all-star Dustin Byfuglien – the group as a whole did not live up to its advanced billing last season.” – Ken Wiebe, Winnipeg Sun, July 30
There are some who have suggested that Trouba hasn’t lived up to the advanced billing. After setting the hockey world aflame during his first and only year of college hockey at Michigan, the Rochester Hills, MI native made the jump to the NHL. And he didn’t just jump in, he was an impact player from the very start, showing a scoring prowess and strong physical skills.
While his offensive numbers have waned over the past two seasons, suggestions he hasn’t been up to par don’t measure up to reality. A good synopsis of the whole picture is found here:
(Scott Campbell has quickly become a Free Press must-read by the way)
If the organization can’t get Trouba locked up, or can’t get fair value for him (which is nearly impossible to get for a player of his worth), then the Jets start the season with a pretty big hole and a substantial dark cloud.
It isn’t time to panic yet, and there has been nothing concrete suggesting this deal won’t get done, but it is troubling that a deal as important as this one remains incomplete.