Jacob Trouba pulls on a Winnipeg Jets cap after being chosen ninth overall in the first round of the NHL hockey draft on June 22, 2012, in Pittsburgh. (Keith Srakocic/Associated Press)
A few observations following an eventful Tuesday for the Winnipeg Jets:
- The Jacob Trouba watch is officially over
During the second intermission of Winnipeg's 5-2 loss to the New York Islanders, general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff confirmed to the team's broadcast rights holder that Trouba, the highly-touted defenceman from the University of Michigan, agreed to join the Jets. There's been a lot of smoke surrounding the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft leaving school to sign a pro deal in Winnipeg -- and subsequently burn his NCAA eligibility -- over the last week, so it's no shock a deal got done. The surprising part: why now?
Trouba, 19, is coming off one great year in college. Many people around the 6-foot-1, 183-pound defenceman feel he's ready to make the jump to the pro game. Time will tell if that's the case; figure his introduction to the Jets lineup to be gradual.
Where the confusion comes is the sudden rush to fit Trouba in Jets gear, an acceleration that flies in the face of the developmental message management has set for the organization. Different paths for different players, sure, but the way the Jets have been so careful with Mark Scheifele (seventh overall, 2011 draft) it's hard not to look at this and question the direction. Either there's been a change in philosophy or Trouba is a special player everyone has made him out to be.
- Byfuglien shifted to forward
Minutes after the Trouba announcement, Byfuglien opened the third period on the right side next to Bryan Little and Andrew Ladd, and Twitter nearly exploded. Not really, but it did give those who believe the big defenceman is better suited as a non-defenceman more ammo in the never-ending fight to see him play up front full-time.
Don't hold your breath.
Tuesday's move to move the big blueliner (who's preference is on the blueline, by the way) was an act of desperation by head coach Claude Noel, who's season-long want for a consistent offence remains unrequited. With his club fading fast from the Southeast Division pole position, Noel is clearly out of answers.
In his post-game comments the coach left the door open for Byfuglien to see more minutes at forward through the final 10 games and beyond -- and the defenceman said all the right 'team-first' things afterwards -- but this isn't a long-term solution for Winnipeg.
Winnipeg has three wins in its last 10 games, and has just seven goals in the seven losses (compared to 10 goals in the three wins).
Lately, if the club can't find at least three scores, they probably aren't going to win. Throw in the fact the power play hasn't scored in 13 straight opportunities. Oh yeah. The top line of Little-Ladd-Blake Wheeler has a grand total of zero points in the last five games.
Ladd hasn't scored in 11 games. Evander Kane hasn't scored in four. Offence is impossible. Frustration is everywhere.
While the Jets (18-18-2) remain in first place in the Southeast (and third in the Eastern Conference) with 38 points, the club is rapidly losing cabin pressure.
Don't look down, hockey fans, but the Washington Capitals are just two points behind the Jets in the division -- and holding two games in hand. Washington beat Carolina 5-3 Tuesday night, keeping the Hurricanes (who have three games in their back pocket) four points back of Winnipeg.
It's getting harder and harder to breathe.
The NHL trade deadline arrives Wednesday afternoon (2 p.m. CT) and no one seems to have a clue what the Jets will (or won't) do. In a perfect world, management would like an offensive right-winger (one not named Dustin Byfuglien) with a year or two left on a current contract, but they're not just giving away those players.
Pending unrestricted free agent Ron Hainsey remains Winnipeg's biggest carrot to dangle, but there hasn't been much chatter on his front in the days leading up to the deadline. It wouldn't shock anyone if the Jets made a minor move or two, nor would it raise an eyebrow if they stood pat.