Tobias Enstrom Must Carry the Load for the Winnipeg Jets

After signing a hefty contract extension at the end of July, Tobias Enstrom figures to have some added pressure on him whenever the Winnipeg Jets hit the ice again. Enstrom is coming off a respectable campaign in which he registered 33 points in 62 games, missing some time with injury. He scored 51 and 50 points in his two seasons prior to the last one and is quietly becoming one of the better offensive-defensemen in the NHL.

Back in February at the trade deadline, the Jets traded defenseman Johnny Oduya to the Chicago Blackhawks for a second round pick and a third round pick in the 2013 draft. It was a smart move as Oduya’s contract was set to expire in July and the Jets had plenty of depth on the back end with Enstrom, Dustin Byfuglien, Zach Bogosian, Mark Stuart, and Ron Hainsey leading the group. Even though Oduya, isn’t an All-Star caliber player, it’d be nice to have him around now that Bogosian will be out for at least four months. However, trading a veteran for draft picks when the team is still in building mode is always the smartest hockey decision.

Bogosian normally skates more than 20 minutes per game. With his long-term absence, the defensive depth, which is considered to be the strength of the Jets, will be tested.

The first question asked after a player goes down for what will be an extended period of time is: Who will be his replacement?  In this case, Bogosian will probably be replaced by someone who played for the Ice Caps last season. Whether it’s Paul Postma or Derek Meech probably won’t matter all that much, as neither player will make you forget about Bogosian.  Replacement players rarely make the injured regular forgotten about.

So how does all of this apply to Tobias Enstrom? He’s going to have to step up in a big way. Based on the moves other teams in the Southeast Division have made, the Jets are underdogs in the playoff conversation. With the defensive depth taking a serious hit, it’s most productive offensive player must have more than just a bounce-back season.

Tobias Enstrom needs to not only get back to the 50-55 point range next season, but he must also be prepared to skate more minutes and play an even larger role on special teams. Whoever is brought up to fill Bogosian’s spot will be merely a depth body so it will be up to Enstrom and his partner Dustin Byfuglien to carry the load.

With a new contract in hand and the defensive depth suddenly much thinner, Tobias Enstrom needs to have a big year.

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