When it comes to Winnipeg’s defensive acquisitions over the years, most of us probably have some less-than-fond memories. The Jets have a love affair with depth defenders, many of which aren’t cut out for top-4 duties. That hasn’t stopped the coaching staff from trotting the newcomers out with frequency, much to the chagrin of many fans. I’m sure there are lots of people who enjoy watching Sbisa do....whatever it is he does around his own net, but I am not in that crowd. At long last, however, the Jets acquired a legitimately great defender in Dylan DeMelo at the cost of a third-round pick.
In many ways, Dylan looks like a fairly unexceptional skater. He’s not a high-end blueline scorer. He doesn’t skate like the wind, and he won’t rip bombs from the point with reckless abandon. No, what you get with DeMelo is an incredibly well-balanced, stabilizing force on your backend. When Dylan is on the ice, you can count on his strong defensive reads, quality positioning, competent zone transition skills, and calmness under pressure to carry you home. On my checklist of things I want out of a bonafide top-4 defender, DeMelo ticks off darn near every box. Just look at his on-ice numbers for Winnipeg (small sample size be darned).
DeMelo walked into one of the worst bluelines in the NHL and immediately helped to turn the scoring chance tide when on the ice. This is no easy feat, considering his partners ran the gamut of 7th-defensemen to the beleaguered Josh Morrissey. Everyone on the blueline has struggled this year, but DeMelo seemed to be blissfully unaware of the present circumstances. He came in, did his job well, and has rightfully earned whatever extension comes his way. I want him tied to a 3-year deal, long enough to give Winnipeg’s backend support for the transition to the new blood. Over the course of that time, I expect he’ll keep on keepin’ on with his strong underlying results. It seems we’ve finally found our replacement for Tobi Enstrom.