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Hextall on Hockey: Sami Niku has been freed

The Winnipeg Jets' Sami Niku celebrates his goal past Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price during third-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, April 3, 2018 in Montreal.
The Winnipeg Jets' Sami Niku celebrates his goal past Montreal Canadiens goaltender Carey Price during third-period NHL hockey action Tuesday, April 3, 2018 in Montreal. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson

Sami Niku is a Winnipeg Jet.

Not because Niku is currently on the roster or because he played Monday night vs. Montreal, but because he has the skill to play in the NHL.

The Jets organization believes the defenceman is a key member of the blue line of the future, which for some is right now – so much so that a “Free Niku” campaign started on social media after the 23-year-old was a healthy scratch for two games, suggesting Niku was being “held back” by the coaching staff.

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The fact is he was being held back for good reason.

In pro sports, decisions on personnel are made in a surgical fashion – there is no emotion. Decisions are made with one thing in mind: what’s best for the organization.

That includes the health and development of a player – and in this case, it’s Sami Niku’s health and development.

READ MORE: ‘He’s a Jet’ — Sami Niku to stick with Winnipeg

Since day one of training camp, Niku has been hampered by injury. After a car crash, a groin injury and then a recent injury that left him unable to skate for a month, to suggest that Niku’s two games back – which equalled 40 minutes of ice time with the Moose – was enough to make him NHL-ready is irrational.

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To deploy Niku into a foot race with Toronto or the heavy style of Minnesota would not be in the best interest of the organization, which means it would not be in the best interest of the player.

But give Niku a few NHL practices to get up to speed, for Paul Maurice and the coaching staff to see him skate, and, yes, Niku is inserted into the lineup and was a player against Montreal.

Why? Because it’s what’s best for the organization; because it’s what’s best for the player.

Eric Comrie ‘extremely happy’ to be back in Winnipeg
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