Film Room: Neal Pionk and the Winnipeg Jets have proven to be the perfect match
At first glance, Neal Pionk doesn't profile like a top-four calibre NHL defenceman. He doesn't dominate opponents physically, beat them with speed, or dangle through their feet. And contrary to other top blueliners, his average at best tools aren't compensated by exceptional reach.
Yet, despite his limitations, Pionk has fared well playing heavy minutes for the Winnipeg Jets in the past two seasons. He's proven to be quite the saving grace for a blueline that, over the course of the summer of 2019, lost many of its best elements to free agency, trades, and retirement. The departures could have crashed the Jets -- they should have -- but Pionk helped them right the ship and navigate out of choppy waters.
This discrepancy between Pionk's tools and on-ice results, and between his performance with the Jets and the New York Rangers, have made him quite the fascinating case study on the importance of team-fit and of not just physical, but mental skills.
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