Josh Morrissey would have been the Winnipeg Jets top rookie if it was not for a forward by the name of Patrik Laine. That said, Morrissey might have been their most important rookie has he was able to help stabilize the top four, especially before Jacob Trouba was signed. Morrissey’s ability to continue to develop and play as a top pairing defenceman in the NHL will be vital to the Jets aspirations of becoming a contender.
Beyond his early season performance, Morrissey was able to continue to improve as the season went on. This improvement should have bolstered the Jets; instead goaltending got in the way of the team showing any improvement in January/February when the defence was healthy and in mid-season form. Because this never happened, it is hard to fully appreciate the stability of having another young defender to play alongside Trouba has done for the Jets. Instead of having a top three with a player being carried by either Trouba or Byfuglien, the Jets had the solid top four that they have needed since they moved to Winnipeg in 2011.
While Morrissey started off the season as more of a passenger for the Jets, he quickly evolved into a player that was capable of pushing the play up the ice and helping create offence for the team. Having another defenceman who is young and can drive play is great for a team that has long relied on defencemen around the age of 30. With Morrissey’s emergence the Jets defence looks slightly less bad in the future.
Morrissey emerged for the Jets right when they needed him to. Without Trouba the Jets were down to two NHL-level top four defencemen and Trouba was able to give them a third. Thankfully the Jets were able to create a top four when Trouba signed; helping ease some pressure on the rookie. The biggest takeaway from the season reviews on Trouba and Morrissey is that they are linked together as the future of the Jets defence and both are needed if the Jets want to contend in the near future. Without a solid defence, all the forwards in the world cannot make the Jets a Stanley Cup contender. If Morrissey can continue to play like he did this past season, the Jets have two very good, young defencemen.
Morrissey was very good this season. As long as he continues along this path, the Jets benefit. However, it is important to realize that his emergence does not make a top four defenceman expendable; the Jets defence is precarious as is and losing one of the top four permanently would be crippling. The Jets need Morrissey and more defencemen like him.