Hey all and welcome to the Arctic Ice Hockey Mailbag! This will be a regular feature on the site, covering any questions you may have pertaining to the Winnipeg Jets. In order to kick your work weeks off right, join us on Monday's for the publication of your comments along with the thought provoking responses of Tim and the snarky retorts of yours truly.
In this weeks editions, we discuss the Winnipeg's defensive systems and the replacement options for Zach Bogosian.
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Jon T.: Hi guys. I've been a regular follower of all of the great info that AIH offers, but don't recall any comments or articles on our defensive system. It seems that everyone (players & pundits) likes Charlie Huddy and what he has done for some of the players on an individual basis, but I would love to see an article or comments on the system he/they have implemented. In watching, it (the system) appeared frustratingly passive to me 5v5 and 4v5, especially compared to teams like the Los Angeles Kings that went deep into the playoffs and always seemed to be pressuring the puck in their own end. Maybe its a case of coaching to the abilities of our players? Maybe I'm totally wrong? Anyway, all the work you put into the site is very much appreciated.
Tim: Hey Jon, thanks for your kind words and contribution, but I don't think I can give you a firm answer here. Many factors come into play when talking about defensive schemes and their effectiveness. While I definitely agree that the Kings had a better defensive unit, I didn't see the Jets as an overly passive bunch. Aggressive versus passive is a little subject for me, effectiveness on the other hand is something that I am a little more comfortable talking about.
Huddy, Noel and company went into last season with largely the same lineup that finished the previous year in Atlanta. What they did with that line up is nothing short of remarkable in my opinion. They took a negative possession team and turned them into a team that generally control the play. Atlanta finished the 2010-11 season ranked 21st in Fenwick close, the Jets finished last season ranked 11th.
In terms of shots against, the team moved from 26th in the league to 15th and their goals against dropped from 269 to 246. That is a sizable swing for any team, especially one that featured pretty much all its same players from the year prior. If you add to the equation how much time Tobias Enstrom, Zach Bogosian and Dustin Byfuglien spent on injured reserve, I have to give Huddy some props. This team was actually pretty solid at 5 on 5.
As for the team's 4 on 5 issues, I think a lot it comes down to personnel. Stylistically speaking the Jets do have a glut of offensive defensemen and no true shutdown players. Mark Stuart is looked at as a shutdown defender, but all in all he wasn't very effective. Ron Hainsey and Zach Bogosian were a little more servicable, though neither excelled. This was likely the Jets' downfall when it comes to 4 on 5 play. Meanwhile a team like Los Angeles were able to rely heavily on Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty and Davis Drewiske to help on their PK. That's a sizeable amount of depth that Winnipeg's roster cannot match.
Considering the lack of player movement on the back end, the Jets will be relying on their upgrades at forward to make a difference in 2012-13. If it is indeed a system issue, Perry Pearn's wealth of knowledge may help. He ran some very effective PK units in Montreal.
Trevor: Thanks for your input Paul, let's jump right into this; watching Milan Jurcina play for the Washington Capitals from 2006-10 tested my faith in humanity. The affably named JUR-SKINE pairing (Jurcina and John Erskine) was truly nightmarish to watch patrol the Capitals blueline over the past several years. Furthermore, last season Jurcina finished with a -34 (!) +/- rating. That's right, -34. Sure, plus/minus is a subjective stat, but it takes a special kind of defensive ineptitude to play anywhere south of -20. Moving on.
I do feel that both Rozsival and Martinek would be worth taking a flyer on. While both have struggled with injury concerns as they enter the twilight of their careers, both can still be valuable assets on the penalty kill -- an area where Winnipeg is extremely underwhelming. When you can't trust three of your seven NHL-level defensemen on the disadvantage, you have a huge problem! Although Claude Noel won't be able to rely exclusively on either of these defenseman to be purely PK specialists, both players offer a skill this team is lacking to make them worth investing a one-year contract on. The fact that both are right-handed shots is just icing on the cake.