Tobias Enstrom will become an Unrestricted Free Agent on July 1 and officially leave the Winnipeg Jets/Atlantic Thrashers organization after spending the past eleven years, his entire North American career, with the same franchise.
Enstrom rarely drew headlines. He quietly did his job alongside the more outgoing and eye-catching Dustin Byfuglien. Enstrom often hung back and covered for the team when they went on offensive adventure without him.
Toby Enstrom left Jets fans wanting more. He was not big enough, he did not score enough, he did not help the Jets win enough and yet without him, the Jets struggled. Enstrom excelled at the little things and managed to survive a lot of physical abuse in the league. He was just good on a team that needed that sort of steady defending from a player.
The Jets decided to not protect Enstrom in the Expansion Draft last year. He probably was not taken because of some back-door dealing by Kevin Cheveldayoff. When he was asked about this, he said he wanted to retire a Jet. This season he was a healthy scratch in game five of the Western Conference Final for unsaid reasons. He did not talk to the Winnipeg media again.
There will be a time to look back at Enstrom’s career with the Thrashers and the Jets. There will be a time to analyze what his loss will mean for the Jets defence. That time is in the future. For the time being, I shall be mourning the departure of a player who was small for his position and an eighth round draft pick to boot. Somehow he made it from MODO to the NHL. He established himself as a key presence on a team that desperately needed a steady defenceman.
Sail on, Swede Prince.