Sunday, June 24, 2012

The Case For Toby Enstrom

Toby Enstrom was a big part of Jets success, posting a +6 rating, one of only two dmen with a plus rating.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)


It's been a relatively quiet off-season for the Winnipeg Jets and their players.

However, as the playoffs stretched along and the last regular season game lingered farther and farther behind in the minds of Jets fans, rumours started to swirl.

And, as any fan of any of the fourteen teams that could only watch other teams compete for the Stanley Cup, Winnipeg Jets fans have predicted what their team could bring come next season.

Including who should stay and who should go.

One of the main targets of this off-seaosn aside from the furor over the Ondrej Pavelec/KHL situation and the Evander Kane who-doesn't-want-to-play-in-Winnipeg rumour situation, Toby Enstrom has become the third and most interesting target for Jets fans and other teams.

As late as June 20th, Twitter has been abuzz with Enstrom rumours with various NHL team beat writers commenting on how Toby would fit into their lineup if he were dealt from the Jets for offensive help.

Edmonton Journal's Bruce McCurdy commented on Twitter that "size is a big knock against Enstrom" and that "to [him] Enstrom is a Lubo Visnovsky type.  Lots of room on [his] team for one of these." (@BruceMcCurdy, June 20)

Oilers Nation's Jonathan Willis cited Enstrom as the link between the Oilers and Jets getting a trade done to bring a puck moving defenseman to Edmonton and some scoring help to Winnipeg (Edmonton Journal, 06/19/2012).

The Hockey Writer's Jeff Mazur questioned whether the Jets should build with Enstrom or sell him and get more assets with his trade. (The Hockey Writers, 06/04/2012)

TSN 1290's Illegal Curve Hockey Show made an interesting point that "if you're not going to re-sign Enstrom after next season, then the draft is the place to deal him, at the latest.  The longer you hold on to him, the less you get back for him." (Illegal Curve Hockey, 04/03/2012)

Even the Winnipeg Sun's own Ken Wiebe asked the question if the Jets were willing to part ways with the Swedish defenseman (Winnipeg Sun, 05/31/2012)

Rumours swirled at the draft that the New York Islanders had even asked what they would need to give in terms of bringing Enstrom to Long Island.

While most of the earlier rumours swirling around Enstrom was, for the most part, fan-based and roused, I would like to state the case for the Jets keeping the seemingly undersized defenseman on their team.

Enstrom was picked to be an NHL All-Star in 2011 before injury.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
Two years off an NHL All-Star invite while playing his fourth and final season in Atlanta, Enstrom was playing very consistent defense and was, again for the most part, a plus player on a very sub-par team.

Even though injury caused him to miss the 2011 NHL All-Star Game, Enstrom finished the season with 51 points (10 goals, 41 assists) in 72 games with a minus ten rating.

To add to his consistency factor, he appeared in all 82 games in his first three season with Atlanta, including his rookie year where he collected 38 points and was only a minus five.

In 318 games as a Thrasher, Enstrom was a combined -6, missing only ten games in his four seasons wearing a Thrasher jersey, while also contributing more than 32 points every season.

His play in Atlanta could be said to have crossed over into a Jets uniform last season, despite missing 20 games with various injuries, including a collarbone injury that forced him to miss much of the first half of the season after Halloween.

Here's the most important stat that can state the case for Enstrom, he had 33 points in 62 games, while being a plus six in 62 games.

His point per game clip fell from .607 in 2009-10 and .708 in 2010-11 to .532 in 2011-12, but he was one of only six regular Jet players who posted a plus rating.

Add to that he was only one of two Jets defenseman to post a plus rating (surprisingly Ron Hainsey was the other at plus nine), and the Jets should not even think of trading away Toby Enstrom - at least not yet.

Remember when the Tomas Kaberle trade speculations were racing around as every team supposedly needed a really good puck moving defenseman such as Kaberle?

In 380 games, Enstrom has 98 power play points.
(Photo Courtesy Yahoo! Sports)
The Jets have Enstrom and Zach Bogosian, and to a lesser extent Dustin Byfuglien, as puck moving defenseman, but the skill and deftness that Enstrom possesses at his first pass and power play smarts.

Due to injury, Enstrom's power play numbers did drop off in 2011-12, where he had only 11 power play points (two goals, nine assists), but his power play numbers in Atlanta show he has the adept ability to be a power play quarterback.

Even in his rookie year, Enstrom collected four goals and 22 assists via the power play, while his best season came in 2010-11 where he netted six goals and added 22 assists with the man advantage.

In his 380 career games, of his 204 career points, Enstrom has 98 power play points, which accounts for almost half.

And for a Jets power play that fizzled out at times (mostly on the road, mind you), trading Enstrom away as a quarterback defenseman on the power play could hurt their power play and the entire team than help it.

As of right now, Enstrom is one year way from becoming an unrestricted free agent, so the Jets have time to make a deal or deal him away if they think they can make up the gap with him out of the lineup.

But if the Jets want to have continued success, the soon-to-be 28 year old Swede should stay in a Jets uniform unless the trade value is very, very high.

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