By: Adam Wazny | Friday, February 8
Winnipeg Jets' defenceman Zach Bogosian takes out Florida Panthers' Tomas Kopecky during a game in Winnipeg on Jan. 21, 2012. (John Woods/Canadian Press)
Thursday morning, in the lead up to the Winnipeg Jets' 3-2
loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, word came down that Zach Bogosian was close to
Hello, light. Meet the end of the tunnel.
Bogosian, Winnipeg's top all-around rearguard, has been
recovering from wrist surgery, a procedure he had done back in August. For the
first time since the operation, Bogosian skated with the Jets (4-5-1) in the
morning skate Thursday and all signs point to him coming back sooner than later.
Bogosian will travel with the club for a brief one-game pit
stop in Ottawa (Saturday, 1 p.m., Hockey Night in Canada) but is not expected
to play. After that, though, the No. 44 watch will be in full effect.
Couple his arrival with the pending return of Dustin Byfuglien -- another key pillar who is not expected to play against the Senators -- and the Jets blue-line goes from a massive question mark to a rather strong piece of the overall puzzle.
Suddenly, a guy like Ron Hainsey, who's been asked to come out of his comfort zone and eat up minutes alongside Toby Enstrom, moves down to the second group to play with Bogosian. Hainsey gets a gold star for his efforts of late but he's been overexposed during the absences of Bogosian and Byfuglien.
Mark Stuart is in the same boat: his value comes from grinding out
his 15-18 minutes behind his own goal line. Watering his game down with extra
responsibility has made him less effective.
But wait, there's more fallout. A return to normalcy on the
blue line means current depth contributors -- Paul Postma, Grant Clitsome, and
Zach Redmond-- will see new assignments: there's one spot left to for a player
to play, one for a press box pass and one possibly looking at an AHL plane
ticket to St. John's.
Yes, the Jets can keep all three as insurance policies to
future injuries but only one can play. Which one should it be? Let's look at
what each pointman has done to this point:
This season: 10 games; one goal, five points; plus/minus -2; three hits; 13 blocked shots; eight giveaways; 16:15 average total ice time
Contract: one year, one-way deal worth $550,000
Postma had a cup of coffee in Winnipeg last year, but hasn't
really asserted himself as invaluable thus far. The defensive part of his job
title isn't his strongest play. The 23-year-old is very good in the offensive
zone, no question, but the Jets have a lot of defencemen who are good in the
offensive zone. That hurts his standing.
This season: 10 games; one goal, two points; plus/minus -4; 20 hits; seven blocked shots; five giveaways; 13:08 average total ice time
Contract: final season of a two-year, $2.5-million pact
The most veteran member of this group (115 NHL games and
counting) figures to have the inside track as the sixth defenceman on the Jets.
He's physical and can handle himself in all areas of the ice, but something is
missing. Too many times his number comes up when Winnipeg is scrambling in its
own end. Like Postma, he'd need to clear waivers to be sent down. That's a gamble
the depth-challenged Jets can't really afford to take.
This season: four games; one goal, three points; six penalty minutes; plus/minus +1; four hits; four blocked shots; no giveaways; 21:31 average total ice time
Contract: last year of a two-year, two-way $1.375-million deal
The 24-year-old has made the most of his playing time -- an impressive feat given he was a healthy scratch for the first six games. His two-way contract works against him but anytime the coach singles you out as one of his better players, as Claude Noel did following Thursday's loss, it can only help your chances. Right now, Redmond is playing the best of the three. Contract status be damned, that should be good enough to stick.