Toby Enstrom seems to be a divider amongst a lot of Jets fans. Some like him, but there is a vocal minority who cannot stand him, whether because of his size, physicality or something completely made up.
Let’s break down some complaints about Enstrom…
The average NHL height for defensemen is 6'1 7/8" but for our purposes, we'll say it's 6’2". Enstrom is 5'10". The average weight for an NHL defenseman is about 210 pounds; Enstrom is 180 lb. So yes, Tobias is below the NHL average and does look small in comparison to the rest of Winnipeg's defence.
But does anyone talk about Erik Karlsson being too small? Karlsson is only an inch taller than Enstrom and is the same weight. I’ve never heard Karlsson’s size used against him like Enstrom's is. Alex Goligoski, Andy Greene and, on the more dramatically undersized side of things, Jared Spurgeon, all have carved out successful NHL careers despite spotting opposing players an inch or three.
It's important to also consider the context in which Enstrom plays. His defensive pairing options include the tough-as-nails Jacob Trouba, an NFL linebacker in Dustin Byfuglien, and Tyler "blot out the sun" Myers. When you couple this with a Jets forward corps which knows a thing or two about being big, Enstrom's lack of size seems a small issue.
His lack of physicality:
Let’s face it, not every player is going to play the same style of "hard-nosed hawkey" as our pals Chris Thorburn and Mark Stuart. And while it makes for less crowd-pleasing highlights, having a player on the back end who won’t abandon positioning just to make a hit is a good thing. Strong #gritchart rankings can serve to mask a defenceman whose defensive game has major liabilities (see: the aforementioned Stu). He’s not going to make bone-crushing bodychecks, but Enstrom is the most defensively sound player on the roster at this time (though Trouba will pass him soon, if he hasn't already). Furthermore, with the Winnipeg Jets already having a penchant for penalties, does the team really need another wrecking ball skating about the ice?
Things which need to be reconsidered…
Enstrom brings a different element to the Jets d-corps than any other defenceman currently on the roster. No other Winnipeg blueliner has the skill of Enstrom, even Dustin Byfuglien. And while Enstrom isn't alone in having strong two-way qualities, he does pack the extra punch of being more consistent. It's that consistency which has led coaches to trust him with heavy minutes and the role of stabilizing presence on whichever pairing he's on.
With things as they are now, the Winnipeg Jets currently have six left-handed defencemen on the roster. Those blueliners are: Tobias Enstrom, Ben Chiarot, Mark Stuart, Adam Pardy, Grant Clitsome (who may never play again) and Jay Harrison, not to mention Josh Morrissey should he force his way onto the big club. If the Jets were to trade Enstrom (ignoring his no-movement clause for a moment), that would possibly leave Ben Chiarot as the number one LHD on the roster. No matter how good the right side is, that is not the left side of a playoff team.
Here’s the biggest indication that Enstrom is going nowhere: his NMC. He can deny a move to any destination he finds undesirable, and it's reasonable to think he might only waive said clause if it meant moving to a team with Stanley Cup aspirations. Cup contenders with both the roster and cap space to absorb his 5.75 million AAV until 2017-18 aren't exactly a dime a dozen, so salary retention may have to be on the table in any trade involving Enstrom.
His contract brings up another understated point: we're talking about a player who chose to sign a five-year deal and dedicate his prime years to the Winnipeg Jets. To both an organization and fanbase which often seem genuinely concerned about players "wanting to be here", one might expect Enstrom's commitment would count for something.
In short, there are plenty of other things for Jets fans to worry about. Chevy’s exciting offseason by the lake, the defensive prospect depth (or lack thereof), and a couple of mildly important expiring contracts come to mind as examples. Tobias Enstrom however, should not induce worry just yet. Thanks to both his contract and his consistency, it'll be a few years down the road before we need to start losing hair over the small Swede. For the 2015-16 season, Enstrom is someone who we as Jets fans do not need to worry about, and that's a wonderful thing we take for granted.
What are your thoughts on Toby? Do you feel he doesn't get the recognition and appreciation he deserves? If you're one who's down on Enstrom, why is that the case? Be sure to comment below, and thanks for reading.