After missing most of last season with hip and groin issues, Jim Slater returned and won face-offs like a champ. That is all he did well though as he, alongside regular fourth line teammate Chris Thorburn, struggled to play more than five minutes a night and placed an unneeded burden on the other lines to play heavier minutes and continue playing while injured because the fourth line could not carry their own weight.
Slater's best asset is his ability to win face-offs. Outside of key moments in a game, face-offs are simply another type of puck-battle needed to get possession. Like all other possession battles, sometimes other players help the centre win the draws. Once a team gains possession, it matters more what is done with the puck. While many forwards on the Jets have the skill to skate the puck out of the zone and enter into the offensive zone with possession, the Jets fourth line struggled with these skilled until Jiri Tlusty joined them late in the season and was able to give them the needed skill to be able to safely get the puck out of one zone and into another.
Slater barely reaches the level of fourth liner on the charts and that includes the seasons before this one when he completely fell off the cliff. While his face-off ability is praised by the broadcasting crew often, the rest of his play is hurting the Jets and his ability to win face-offs is not reason enough for him to be an every game player. In fact, if the game was played with no face-off, there would be no reason to play Slater at all.
If a player has only one useful quality, let it be brains or speed. Those are tangible qualities that can benefit a team even if the player cannot do much more than that one redeemable skill. Being able to win puck battles because of brains or consistently be the first on the puck are actual possession qualities that are needed in more situations than face-off wins. Slater is a one-dimensional player whose single dimension does not aid the fourth line in any way.
Slater is a pending free agent this summer and the Jets would be best to look elsewhere for help at the fourth line centre rule. While the team could sign a veteran player for that role, the Jets could also decide to simply leave the spot open for a young player to grab. This move may give them a little more cap room to retain players like Michael Frolik and Lee Stempniak, who both help the Jets in a multitude of ways. Slater does not hold these same qualities, and while he has been fairly durable, it is time for the Jets to move on from their longest tenured player to a player who can be of more use to the team.