Tobias Enstrom took a step back this year for the Winnipeg Jets. Actually, he progressed naturally along the aging curve. It should be said that Enstrom was not as bad as some people claim he was, but his offence has completely dried up even though his shot-suppressing ability remained high. If paired with the correct partner, this deficit is a non-factor and Enstrom can even boost a player by covering their defensive deficiencies.
Enstrom is at a key point in his career because if he is used correctly he can remain a NHL level defenceman for a while longer. If used incorrectly or if he declines faster than anticipated, he could be a bottom pairing defenceman sooner than first thought. However, Enstrom’s struggles might not be simply because of age; Swedish press reported that his girlfriend was diagnosed with cancer this year and that can cause the type of emotional upheaval that could lead to a temporary decline that he bounces back from next season. This season might be an aberration for Enstrom and that would be excellent news for the Jets; if it is not than the Jets need to work on finding a replacement for him so as he slips further into decline the Jets will not feel the loss as acutely.
Enstrom’s season was more uneven than Dustin Byfuglien’s and it is apparent when he was playing alongside the correct partner. Based on this, it is apparent that Enstrom is still a talented player, but will he remain an asset to the Jets by the time they are ready to compete is a question that needs to be asked by management. If the answer is no, which is a fair answer, then they need to figure out what the next step is. How is Enstrom replaced when the first call up from the AHL is Julian Melchiori? Which teams and players should be targeted by the Jets? These questions have to be answered before Enstrom’s name enters trade discussions.
Enstrom is still a solid NHL defenceman. He had a bit of a rough year, but that was in a year where he was going through some things off-ice. The questions surrounding Enstrom are centred around two different things: can he bounce back and should the Jets explore trading him? Even if he does not bounce back, he is still a useful defenceman to the team and exposing him in the expansion draft would be silly. Enstrom: too important too lose, but quite possibly the wrong player too keep.