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What happened to Josh Morrissey?

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Toronto Maple Leafs v Winnipeg Jets Photo by Jonathan Kozub/NHLI via Getty Images

Josh Morrissey is struggling. He has been struggling for over a year now and nothing has been done about it. The fall of Josh Morrissey started with two or three important events: the departure of Toby Enstrom, the trading of Jacob Trouba, and the retirement of Dustin Byfuglien. Those three departures most likely helped contribute to Morrissey falling off the cliff in terms of play, but it has to be more than three players leaving to turn Morrissey into a ghost of the player he was when he entered the league. How did this happen?

When Josh Morrissey first broke out he was on a pairing with Jacob Trouba and they played behind the vaunted Byfuglien-Enstrom pair. Although Byfuglien was a player who could elevate anyone to his level, he truly shone when playing with the quiet and diminutive Enstrom. Enstrom complimented Byfuglien’s risk taking perfectly allowing him to run over players and take over games at will. This made everyone’s life easier including Enstrom’s as he was able to play his game knowing that Byfuglien could carry the load.

This brings me to Morrissey and Trouba. What a top four defence that was. You could literally have an AHL third pairing and not worry because they could play 10 minutes a game if that. The Jets top four carried them to unseen heights and it was a sight to behold. Morrissey was seen as the stronger of the two players on his pairing because Trouba could be a bit reckless at times and make some weird decisions. Morrissey was the Enstrom to Trouba’s Byfuglien until it all started to fall apart.

The first fall of the Jets defence was Enstrom leaving in the summer of 2018 and then Trouba asking for a trade in the summer of 2019 and Byfuglien eventually retiring right after. Quite an 18 months for the Jets defence and a series of events that helped lead to Morrissey struggling to the point where he is barely recognizable as a player. I do think a large part of that is tied to the fact that the Jets lost 3/4 top four defencemen in a short period of time that led to Morrissey struggling. That said, Trouba is also struggling with the New York Rangers so maybe there is more there.

When it comes to the Winnipeg Jets, the defencemen are taught to play a specific way even if they come up having a greater skillset than rimming it up the boards. I wonder if teaching players to go against their instincts makes them worse players because they are no longer able to just trust themselves. Coaches should hone a player’s instincts instead of trying to remove them. Not all players play the same style and the goal of the coach should be to change the system to fit the players instead of changing the players to fit the system.

Morrissey is looking a bit better recently, but the underlying issues remain and will remain unless the Winnipeg Jets change coaches and even then the problem might not be solved. The team is set on players playing a certain way and if they are incapable of it they are offloaded or allowed to deteriorate at an alarming rate. It has been seen with countless players who are not at the age of rapid decline.

The Jets have problems everywhere on their roster, but the rapid and unexplained decline of Josh Morrissey is one of their biggest problems as well we being one fo the hardest to remedy. The defence was supposed to build around him and they seem married to that idea even though it appears that that ship has sailed a long time again.