Trouba has the right/left stuff

Can play either side, but best to give him one position

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Winnipeg Jets fans have had a rewarding summer so far, starting with the acquisition of the NHL’s second-overall draft pick, Patrick Laine. The addition of unrestricted free agent Shawn Mathias to a competitive group of young, bottom-six forwards also brings plenty of optimism for the coming season.

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 05/08/2016 (2308 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Winnipeg Jets fans have had a rewarding summer so far, starting with the acquisition of the NHL’s second-overall draft pick, Patrick Laine. The addition of unrestricted free agent Shawn Mathias to a competitive group of young, bottom-six forwards also brings plenty of optimism for the coming season.

The Jets have signed all their desirable restricted free agents — except for defenceman Jacob Trouba and possible fourth-liner J.C. Lipon. Look at Calgary, where the Flames haven’t signed either of their top RFAs, Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan, so maybe it’s just part of the negotiation process.

It’s been noted by some media Trouba may be concerned with his role on the team and where he fits in. This is something very real to me — let’s dig deeper.

WAYNE GLOWACKI / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES Winnipeg Jets Jacob Trouba at a team practice in the MTS Centre.

Good players are concerned about the role they have on the team, and how comfortable they are with that situation is of vital importance. Head coach Paul Maurice finally allowed Trouba to be free of blue-line partnerMark Stuart for some good times last season and the dynamic duo of Dustin Byfuglien and Trouba performed well. That required Trouba to play the left side — not something he was totally comfortable with — but he was obviously happy to play with superb talent.

Trouba said he hoped to play one side or the other — not to be switched back and forth — but I can’t see Maurice guaranteeing any player anything. There may be nights when he needs to spread out the defensive talent over the six spots, relegating Trouba into “Stuart territory.”

But for fun, let’s say Maurice guaranteed Trouba would always play in one of the top-four defence pairings with Byfuglien, Tyler Myers or Toby Enstrom. On the surface, left-shooting Enstrom would seem to be the best match, so Trouba could play his natural right-side position. Putting Myers and Byfuglien together, however, would be a disaster.

Therein lies the problem for Trouba. He’s far and away the Jets’ best choice to switch over from the right side. Myers and Byfuglien are hampered by their foot speed and quickness when tight to the puck.

We know Trouba can have success pushing the play forward with Byfuglien, but can he have personal success offensively in five-on-five situations? With Byfuglien as the ultimate “roaming” defenceman, how many prime offensive opportunities will Trouba get? Points matter in future negotiations, and I assume Trouba’s agent would want to ensure his client is paid for his potential to score points when talking about a long-term contract — especially if it looks like it’s going to be taken away by a more defensive role.

Trouba had an excellent rookie season, potting 10 goals and 19 assists in 65 games. He dropped to 22 points in 65 games in his second year, then to 21 points in 81 games last season. He should be thinking he can improve on those first-year numbers if given the chance — resulting in a much bigger payday.

Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff has to be remembering that first year, too, only maybe he sees a player who was a bit of a loose horse, seemingly jumping into every offensive rush and scoring a few tap-in goals from the crease. Generally, they’ve been able to to rein him in. But have they gone too far, in Trouba’s mind?

Another concern would be where he fits on the power play. With teams trending to using four forwards and one defenceman, he has to acknowledge Byfuglien is the D-man on the first unit and he’ll be battling with Enstrom and Myers for time on the second unit.

While I saw discomfort at times with Trouba on the left side, he could make this a good thing offensively if given the chance.

Before I got to Winnipeg in 1978, I was known as an offensive defenceman, although well-taught defensively. I always played the right side despite being a left shot and loved it — from novice hockey to the Houston Aeros of the World Hockey Association. There are too many advantages to go into here, but the thing I hated most was when a teammate would wire the puck wide of the net and I’d have to pick it up as it rimmed the boards. Not only is your back turned towards the onrushing checker, but you are also handling it on your backhand. It’s hard.

But Trouba hasn’t had a lifetime of hockey to feel comfortable, and I’ve seen him struggle with this in limited time.

I’m a big believer in Trouba, but I’m not surprised he hasn’t signed yet.

Let’s not forget Cheveldayoff has control here. Trouba has few options. Being named to Team North America for the World Cup of Hockey gave some fans hope he might take less money so he could play in it. It’d be crazy to play without a contract or heavy insurance, but it looks like the NHL and/or player’s association will take care of that.

Still, this could be anything from a holdout at training camp to a match made in heaven, including a trade in the middle.

Chosen ninth overall by the NHL’s St. Louis Blues and first overall by the WHA’s Houston Aeros in 1977, Scott Campbell has now been drafted by the Winnipeg Free Press to play a new style of game.

Twitter: @NHL_Campbell

Scott Campbell

Scott Campbell
Columnist

Scott was a member of Winnipeg Jets 1.0 for a couple of seasons and also played for the WHA Jets team that won the last Avco Cup in 1978-79.

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