I miss Dustin Byfuglien.
Not for the obvious reasons, or maybe even the less obvious ones.
On January 28th, Mark Scheifele was asked whether this Winnipeg Jets team had an identity. His response was: “Probably not”. I’m not here to pick on Mark. I think it was a refreshingly honest answer to a good question. One which Blake Wheeler and all the other leaders of the team should be forced to answer.
For better or worse, when Buff was here, we had an identity…it was him. Nobody liked playing against him. Patrick Laine too (for different reasons).
Let’s be clear, not every team has an ‘identity’. This isn’t a Jason Bourne film. However, this group has been together long enough to have a selfhood. Are we tough to play against? Regrettably no. Are we highly skilled? Sort of, but to what end? This is the crux of the problem. Many of our skill guys are just that…skilled, but little else. If we run into a cold scoring streak (we are near the bottom of Expected Goals), we don’t have a Plan B.
We don’t play particularly fast or aggressive. So each game is won or lost on whether our skill players capitalize. That’s happened less and less lately. Right down to our Vezina winning goaltender.
Dave Lowry isn’t the answer either, and we should have known that (I didn’t). You can read all the terrible Brené Brown books you want on leadership, but it comes down to 2 things, (I) accountability and (II) understanding of roles. We don’t have either.
Let’s be honest. We are the smallest of small market teams. That means there is no room for error. We’re not getting big ticket free agents, nor are we a trade destination. That means we have to be savvy, and it means we have to work harder than everyone else. Either that or we have to get lucky with generational talents, like Byfuglien. But most of all, it requires that we have an identity.
The longer we go without one, the harder it will be to find.