Jets meet Jacob Trouba in opener with plenty of questions facing blue line

Sean Reynolds reports from Winnipeg where there are questions surrounding the Jets roster.

Most of us have been through it before. That uncomfortable, sometimes emotional moment you run into your ex after a breakup.

Try as you have to put them out of your thoughts, the mind drifts back to the good times that in retrospect seem that much sweeter. And when you do meet again for that first time, damned if they don’t look better than you remember.

I imagine that’s the lens the Winnipeg Jets and their fans will see Jacob Trouba through Thursday night as they open their season against the New York Rangers.

The Jets have moved on and have quickly built a steady relationship with Neal Pionk and Ville Heinola, two new beaus you tell yourself you’ve traded up for. And no doubt, they have potential.

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But of all the Jets’ off-season losses, maybe none are more significant than trading Trouba to Broadway. That these two teams meet right out of the gate is a twist of drama not lost on the stakeholders.

“Yeah, the schedule maker was looking to do something I guess,” GM Kevin Cheveldayoff quipped earlier this week.

Jokes aside, the Jets will be reminded of Trouba’s capabilities while confronting the hole he has left behind.

Yes, head coach Paul Maurice has talked glowingly about the players he gained, just don’t be surprised if you catch him flash a longing glance across the ice at what he’s lost.

Start with his power play production. Trouba’s off-season windfall (a seven-year contract extension with an $8 million AAV) was based largely on his offensive production. He finished last season with 50 points, bolstered by 18 power play points, which was good for 15th among NHL defencemen. Not bad for a player who spent much of the season on Winnipeg’s secondary power play unit, keeping in mind that unit outperformed the top power play for stretches during the season.

While Josh Morrissey should do a fine job quarterbacking the top unit, the secondary power play is now anchored by the aforementioned Pionk and Heinola. Expecting those players to match Trouba’s proficiency is a big ask with just 101 games of NHL experience between the two of them.

Considering the Jets’ reliance on power play production over the past couple years, there may be no place they feel Trouba’s absence more, especially if big Dustin Byfuglien elects to not return.

Speaking of big, size will be another area Winnipeg will miss Trouba. At 6-foot-3, 210 pounds he was never the biggest defenceman on an oversized unit. That said he played a rugged, and at times nasty, brand of hockey that contributed to the Jets’ reputation as one of the league’s toughest teams.

Combine that size with skating ability and a great first pass and you have a defender who’s in the upper-fifth of the league at driving clean zone exits. Another area where the Jets can’t afford to regress.

With all that going for him, it’s easy to see how the Jets fell in love with Trouba in the first place. But using a variation of the folk singer Stephen Stills’ famous line, if you can’t be with the one you love, love the ones you’re with.

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