Mark Stuart became a Winnipeg Jet when the Jets were still known as the Atlanta Thrashers. This should explain a lot about the failures of both those teams since that time, but this season especially was difficult for Mark Stuart because he was the personification of One Direction's "Drag Me Down" if the song was about a hockey player and not love gone wrong.
Mark Stuart's most common partner this season was Jacob Trouba and this season was a struggle for both players. The difference between Trouba and Stuart is that there is a definite idea of what Stuart is and a lot more of a grey area around Trouba's play because he has played two seasons in the NHL, not ten NHL seasons like Stuart. Knowing this, what is Mark Stuart's impact on Trouba when they played together? (I understand WOWYs are on the way out, but this is important)
As the data shows, Mark Stuart drags Trouba down a lot when they are on the ice together. Stuart is terrible when not with Trouba and Trouba is dragged down 6% wth his CorsiFor when with Stuart. There is no way that these two should be a pairing and there is no way that Mark Stuart should be a top-four defenseman on a NHL team, let alone one that is in the lineup no matter how he plays in the previous game.
Stuart's flaws as a player are apparent. He is not the best skater. He makes bad defensive reads. He does not help the penalty kill at all. He blocks a lot of shots because that is what he does well as opposed to what would help the Jets in the long run. In short, he is a highly flawed defenseman who is played more than his skillset should dictate because decision makers think that what he does is helpful. This is a long-term problem though and not one that started this season.
Mark Stuart's struggles are not only from this season. Ever since he made the NHL he has been not very good and his constant inclusion in the lineup should be questioned. Those decisions are beyond Stuart's control. But they are decisions that impact the Jets in big ways. There is no amount of scoring help that can help Stuart advance the puck. There is no amount of scoring help that will better his defensive reads. He just is not good enough for the role he has been placed in.
There is one other thing to consider when one looks at Stuart: his contract. Three years ago Stuart signed at extension worth ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS over four years. That is a massive overpay for a player of Stuart's calibre. The greater issue with this contract is it severely limits what the Jets can do because that is a nearly untradeable contract in itself, and the Jets are also a budget team so committing that much money to a mediocre-to-bad defenseman is a bad use of limited resources when there are other places to spend that type of money.
To recap: Mark Stuart had a bad year. He dragged Jacob Trouba down, which makes it harder to evaluate Trouba as an individual player. He is paid way too much for his skill. He is what the Winnipeg Jets should be moving away from instead of remaining loyal to. Lastly, his contract pays him ELEVEN MILLION DOLLARS over four years and that is just too much time and money committed to a bad player.