Winnipeg Jets Defense Needs to Play D First

| October 11, 2011 | 1 Comment

I have two major pet peeves in my life. Two things that irritate me more than anything. People who park on the wrong side of the road and defensemen who pinch and jump into the play too much.

I’ll leave the parking for another time. But, today, I want to discuss pinching defensemen and what they mean to the Winnipeg Jets.

I am the son of a hockey coach. He taught me the in’s and out’s of the game and shared his personal philosophy on how the game should be played. He believed in hard hitting, solid forechecking and fighting when you need to. He didn’t subscribe to any fancy systems or anything like that. Just put pucks on net and give your goalie a chance on the backend.

One lesson I have always remembered was what he would say to defensemen. He called it the 100% rule. It was pretty simple. Don’t pinch at the blueline unless you are 100% sure you can keep the puck in. He told me if there was any doubt back up and play it safe.

I agree with this and, throughout my years of playing and watching hockey, have been frustrated when I see a D-man pinch and get burned at the blue line or jump into the offensive zone and stand infront of the opposing net.

So imagine how I felt on Sunday when I am watching the Jets play Montreal and seeing the Jets D getting beat over and over again by pinching when they shouldn’t. The Jets gave up too many odd man rushes which, almost all of them, could be attributed to over aggressive play by the defense.

Listen, the Jets are blessed with an abundance of offensive minded defensemen and I have no problem with the D jumping into the play every now and then. The problem the Jets had on Sunday was that they did this too much. I understand Big Buff wants to get into the play, but his first responsibility is to play defense. If not, he’s just going to be a liability out there.

And its just not Buff. Enstrom, Oduya and Bogosian all got burned by trying to get into the offense. Yes, the forwards should cover, but sometimes if there is a quick turnover you are caught in an odd man rush and we need to keep in mind the guys the Jets are playing against are all pros who will make you pay for mistakes like that.

This was a problem with the Thrashers last season. They relied on their D to contribute too much of the offense. The D would jump into almost every play because they lack the offensive power. The problem is that its a high risk high reward kind of deal. If the play failed then the other team would have a golden opportunity.

The Jets need to generate more offense so that the D doesn’t have to contribute as much. They need the Wheeler’s, Antropov’s and Little’s to step up their game. I also think they should move Buff up to forward and only use him on D for powerplays. Its clear he wants to play forward so give him is wish and watch him dominate upfront. If you have any doubt look back at his play with the Blackhawks during their Stanley Cup run for proof of his dominance as a forward.

I have always thought that the D should be the quarterbacks of the team, that the offense should flow through them. This does not mean that they should stand infront of the opposing teams goal or  carry the puck end to end. I see it as they control the breakout and set the play. I am also a big fan of feeding the puck to the point and having the D shoot with traffic infront of the net. If the slot is open a D can drift down and take a big one timer with a few Winnipeg Jets jerseys infront of the opposing goalie. 

Yet the problem the Jets had against the Habs was the D was trying to either carry it end to end or skate up with the forwards looking for a pass.

Maybe this is what Claude Noel wants. This could be what he is instructing his players to do. Though if it is then I have major reservations about his judgement. That style did not work last year with pretty much the same personel. There is no reason to think that it would work this season. Noel needs to tell his D to stay home and focus on helping the goalie keep pucks out of the net.

Now, it was just one game, but when the rumors about the Thrashers coming to The River City started I began watching this team and noticed that the D were jumping in too much and getting caught. After the home opener, it’s clear that this trend is continuing.

The easy solution is to score more goals. To do that the Jets need to shoot more. They had success on Sunday when they crashed the net with two guys. Wayne Gretzky said once the only bad shot is one you didn’t take. I agree with the Great One 100% on this. Get traffic in front of the goalie, shoot, grab rebounds and the goals will come. Then the D can stay back and protect the net. Then I won’t have to yell at the TV anymore.

Go Jets Go!


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Category: Jets News

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  1. bcmike says:

    Couldn’t agree more Craig. Good write up. Phil Housley must have given you and your dad fits ;) Seriously, probability is like gravity, it will always catch up to you. High risk plays by the defense nearly always end in catastrophe.

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