There was a time, roughly five months ago, when Winnipeg Jets' fans weren't completely sold on the prospect of the selection of Jacob Trouba with the team's first pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft.
With elite offensive talents the likes of Mikhail Grigorenko and Filip Forsberg sliding down draft boards, some questioned the validity -- or sanity -- of a team clamoring for help offensively to pass up such sure-fire talents for a defenseman of which we had a glut. It only took one glance at Trouba's play during this winter's World Junior Championships to realize that the Jets' scouting brass had it right all along.
Throughout the tournament, Trouba was a stylin', profilin', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun; a native of Rochester, Michigan who could play the game of hockey with the ruggedness of the ruthless Scott Stevens one shift and the elegance and beauty of Nicklas Lidstrom the next. Lofty praise? Perhaps. But Jacob Trouba has the potential to become a hockey dynamo rarely seen at the NHL level; malevolence and grace in perfect symmetry.
We loved him instantly.
It was as USA Hockey accepted their 2013 World Junior gold medals -- the country's second victory at the tournament in the past four years -- that Jets' fans finally understood what they had in Trouba. Any doubts or trepidations had been washed from our collective memory, replaced by the giddy hype demonstrated by the fresh-faced and charismatic U.S. defenseman. Grigorenko and Forsberg quickly became afterthoughts. We had our next franchise defenseman to place alongside Zach Bogosian.
And so, when it was announced that Trouba was considering to forgo his sophomore season under the direction of Red Berenson -- the forefather of Wolverines hockey at the University of Michigan -- we clamored at the thought of our newest American roaming Winnipeg's blue line, collecting the bones of his opponents on a nightly basis.
For a unit that currently platoons a bevy of AHL level talent on it's back-end, it isn't difficult to fathom Trouba making himself at home almost immediately. There he could learn under the guidance of Charlie Huddy, a man whose streak ran as mean as Trouba's during his nineteen years in the NHL spanning seasons with the Edmonton Oilers and Los Angeles Kings to name a few.
And even though Trouba had a delightful 2012-13 campaign in which he led all Wolverines defensemen in scoring, his arrival is anything but a slam dunk. There's a 50/50 chance we are having the same conversation next spring.
For Trouba, it's been a lifelong dream to suite up in the blue and maze for the University of Michigan. When asked about it in an interview with the Winnipeg Free Press, he left no doubt where his heart lay:
"My plan is definitely to be a Wolverine," said Trouba. "It’s what i had my mind set on and it was one of my goals. That’s what I want to do." He also knows what he has to do to reach his ultimate goal: the NHL. "I need to get bigger and stronger," said Trouba. "That’s the biggest thing. I need to get be stronger to play at the next level."
Though his freshman season with the Wolverines was near impeccable, there may be a part of 6'2", 195LBS defenseman that desires to improve upon Michigan's disappointing 10-15-3 season with a trip to the 2014 Frozen Four Tournament.
The beauty in Trouba's decision is that there is no right or wrong choice to be made. If he feels prepared for the everyday rigours of the NHL lifestyle -- including the fat stacks of high society that go along with it -- he has that option. If he feels the pull to clean up unfinished business at the University of Michigan, including bringing himself one step closer to the completion of his degree in the faculty of Kinesiology, then we should applaud his value of commitment and determination -- both qualities that will make him a successful member of the Winnipeg Jets' organization for years to come.
However, whatever conclusion is rendered over the course of the week, it would behoove our fan base to be accepting and understanding of a difficult choice being made by a 19 year old kid playing hockey for his home state.
Besides, things could be way worse than having to wait on Trouba for another year (or two, who knows!). Just ask fans of the Anaheim Ducks the agony they feel while watching Justin Schultz suit up for the Oilers.
See, I told you things could be worse.