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Myers is Set Up to Succeed With Winnipeg Jets

The Buffalo Sabres and Winnipeg Jets sent shock waves through the hockey world today by making a monster trade. Jets General Manager Kevin Cheveldayoff sat on his hands for years before finally making his first actual player-for-player trade, shipping disgruntled winger Evander Kane and defenseman Zach Bogosian to Buffalo for Drew Stafford, Tyler Myers, prospect Joel Armia, the rights to Brendan Lemieux and a 2015 first-round pick.

Most of the focus has been on Kane heading to Buffalo, but Myers landing with the Jets has been lost in the shuffle. This is essentially a trade that allows two talented and young players to switch zip codes, thus getting a fresh start. Back in 2009, Myers was all the rage in Buffalo.

The 6’8, 219-pound defenseman notched 48 points as a rookie and took home the Calder Trophy. Sabres fans (and management) saw a teenager headed for Norris Trophies and Stanley Cups. Myers regressed a bit as a sophomore, scoring one less goal and registering 10 fewer assists. As Buffalo trended downward, so did the promising cornerstone defenseman. He now appears on more “bad contract” listicles than stars of the night breakdowns, and frequently catches heat for his $5.5 million cap hit that extends to the 2018-19 season.

For some strange reason, fans and pundits expected Myers to be good despite playing on some awful Sabres teams. He’s heading to Winnipeg now though, and the Jets are in much better shape than  Buffalo. In fact, their defensive core is shaping up to be quite formidable.

How imposing could a Dustin Byfuglien/Myers pairing be on the back end? That’s a lot of range and size, and they aren’t the only physical difference makers on the roster. Jacob Trouba has the makings of an NHL All-Star and doesn’t shy away from the dirty areas.

Tobias Enstrom is incredibly underrated, and these players will round out a strong top-four group in Winnipeg. Myers is no fancy stat darling, but his upside dwarfs that of Zach Bogosian. Right now the hope is that Myers will be able to adequately replace Bogosian, and that really shouldn’t be too tough of an ask.

Myers has only played on two solid rosters (his first and second/most successful seasons), and he was a strong contributor in those seasons. As the talent around him dwindled, he struggled. The former 12th-overall draft pick was at his best when he was playing alongside a veteran that he was familiar with. Paul Maurice’s structure is simple in Winnipeg, but at least it exists.

Watching Ted Nolan’s Sabres, you get the idea that there isn’t much in the way of X’s and O’s. There’s a lot of chatter about effort level and competing, but not a lot of teaching appears to happen. It isn’t just Myers that has seen his growth stunted by the lack of a system in Buffalo. Mikhail Grigorenko suffered a similar fate, and now the once promising rookie is working on his game in the minors.

What’s going to happen to Myers’ game once he’s able to operate inside of a structure that amounts to more than “put your head down and skate?”

Work ethic is important. No one denies that, but the Jets and Sabres run ships that differ in a number of ways. Myers isn’t going to evolve or change overnight, but he’s not in the position where he has to be the man anymore. The Sabres wanted to build their team around Myers. The Jets just need him to be a steady top-four guy.

We’re not going to know who ‘won’ this trade for quite some time. There are a lot of moving parts and when prospects are involved, it’s always tough to call. Winnipeg is a decent defensive team that has been banged up on the blue line. Myers supplements the players that are already in place well, and is going to be part of a well coached (probably) playoff team. That’s a win-win for both parties, regardless of how this trade shakes out by 2020.

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