Yesterday we talked about Jeff Blashill’s plan for this Red Wings team being based on speed. This is what he said about his vision for the team’s identity.
“We’ve talked about our identity being relentless and fast, being competitive and detailed. In the fast part obviously speed’s a factor but it’s not everything. It’s mentality, not just how fast you skate but how fast you play, so we try to play as fast as we can and transition hockey. I think that’s our best chance to have lots of success based on the team we have... We’ve got a D corps that can get up in the play and skate and a group of forwards who have some high end speed and can make plays at high speed, so to me it’s just playing to our strengths.”
When Blashill described what he’s looking for from his team, relentless, fast, competitive, detailed and able to make quick plays and excel in a fast transition game, it’s hard not to think of Nick Jensen. Along with Xavier Ouellet and Ryan Sproul, Nick Jensen will have to exposed to waivers this year in order to be sent back to Grand Rapids. While most fans are more familiar with Ouellet and Sproul, the focus on team speed and fast playmaking could give an advantage to the lesser know Jensen.
“Lots of people talk about the D spot we have open and Jensen’s name is probably not mentioned enough.” Blashill says. “Nick Jensen, in the two camps he’s been in has done a really good job and has had a real good impact. I know he’s done a real good job a couple years in a row GR, and Nick, when he’s playing his best, uses his speed as a defensive weapon. He’s got a great great ability to cover ground and he’s really competitive. So if he does a great job defending and does a great job getting the puck out of our end, he’s going to make a play to be the guy on the hockey team.”
It’s difficult to hear Blashill talk about Jensen and not think that his skillset is tailored for the Wings current build.
Todd Nelson got to coach Jensen in Grand Rapids last year and says of him:
“Jenner’s got to be consistent day in and day out. He’s a pretty consistent guy and he skates so well. One of the things he can work on is making more plays under pressure but at the AHL level he’s able to sometimes dominate.”
If Jensen doesn’t make the Wings, and they choose instead to put him on waivers, he’s hoping to be picked up by another team and have the opportunity to play in the NHL.There’s no resentment or frustration in his voice as he talks about his situation, and he understands the Wings have some tough decisions to make.
“It’s going to be huge for me to give my best case possible to not only Detroit but every team in the league, that I feel like I can play in the NHL; I’ve got to make it hard on the staff here. I want to be on Detroit, but if they don’t want me and I go down, I want to get picked up by another team as well. I want to show I can skate and move the puck up to the forwards and create offense from the D zone, not necessarily just scoring.”
I’ve loved Jensen’s game since the first time I watched him in Wings development camp and have been a little surprised he hasn’t been given a chance yet to prove he can play in the NHL. He’s often left out of the discussion of the Wings defensive future, or mentioned as an afterthought, but Coach Blashill’s comments about the team’s identity and Jensen’s skillset sound like it’s the perfect fit. I know most people think of Sproul and Ouellet ahead of Jensen in the depth chart, but I’m not sure that’s something we can assume. I think Jensen’s potential is higher than Ouellet’s, and what he brings right now is better than Sproul. The tough question is, what can Sproul become and is it more than what Jensen can achieve? Putting any of the three defensemen on waivers is a risk, even though it’s varying degrees of risk. Maybe they’ll clear, maybe they won’t. What Nick Jensen has a small window of time to do, is prove that he’s worth keeping on the team both now and in the future, and it sounds to me like he just might be what the Wings need.