By Scott Billeck – @scottbilleck
Mark Stuart doesn’t smile a whole lot on game days but Thursday was a little different.
Stuart, who is usually all business before a game, was in a pretty good spirits on Thursday morning. It is understandable given the fact he just re-upped with the Winnipeg Jets to the tune of four years and $10.5 million. It’s not the money that has Stuart all giddy, however, but the chance play in a city, and on a team, that he loves.
“For me, as soon as I got here I kind of fell in love with it. It reminds me of home,” said Stuart who hails from Rochester, Minn., a short eight-hour car ride away. “It’s close to home, my parents can drive up to games and I got to know a lot of people in a short amount of time just around the city. I have really enjoyed my time here.”
There is a hockey side to the excitement that was flowing from Stuart. He currently finds himself on a rejuvenated team, one that has an impressive 11-3-2 record under new head coach Paul Maurice.
” I am excited for the future,” said Stuart. “We have the right people here, especially in the front office and in ownership and the coaching staff as well — I think the future is bright.”
The opportunity to play with a young and quite talent fellow American in Jacob Trouba doesn’t hurt either.
“It’s so much fun,” Stuart explained. “When you first come into the league you have guys like that and you never really look down the road and think I might be one of those guys some day. But now I am kind of at that point and it is a lot of fun.
“I was lucky when I first got into the league to have good veterans, guys who took me under their wing. If I can pass on a little bit of that it is a good thing. If I can bring a little bit of that old school mentality to (Trouba) then that is good. There still needs to be a little of that around. For a guy like Troubs, he makes it easy on me, he doesn’t need a lot of help.”
Maurice said after Thursday’s pre-game skate that Stuart brings things to the team that may not be reflected on the score sheet, but nevertheless are there.
“So happy for us that Mark Stuart agreed to come back and be apart,” said Maurice. “He is exactly the man you want in the room when you are as young as well are. He works hard off ice; he does all hard things over the course of a game. He has a complete compete level and is the right man to bring a player to bring a guy like Jacob Trouba along.”