Jets face blue line juggle

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 returning.

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:

  • Paul Postma

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.

  • Grant Clitsome

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.

  • Zach Redmond

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.

Opinion

Adam Wazny is a Winnipeg-based freelance writer who has covered sports in the city for over a decade. He has worked as a reporter for both the Winnipeg Free Press and the Winnipeg Sun, and now spends most of his time checking his Twitter. Did someone say Twitter? Find him here: @wazoowazny.

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