Pilot's Logbook 2013-14: Dustin Byfuglien

Marianne Helm

The Winnipeg Jets 2013-14 season has been laid to rest. This series will take an in-depth look how the team and its players have performed, and some decisions that could push the Jets forward in the future.

Dustin Byfuglien could contest for the Winnipeg Jets most controversial player. He is a fan favourite and has the ability to change a game at a moments notice, but not always for good.

Byfuglien spent more games as a defenseman than a forward, and when he was a forward, it was only for 5v5 minutes. For these reasons, Byfuglien will be evaluated as a defenseman.

The Basics

GP G A P TOI/GP S/60 Sh% PenD
78 21 35 56 22.7 8.6 8.2% -17

Numbers are for all minutes.

Byfuglien had a strong year for offensive production, despite playing his lowest TOI per game as a Jet.

Some of this improvement comes from his highest shooting percentage over the last 4 seasons. A portion of Byfuglien's shooting percentage increase likely arises from playing games as a forward, which allows for shots closer to the goal. Although, during Byfuglien's 10 goal and 12 assist tenure as a forward, 3 goals and 7 assists occurred on the power play (and Byfuglien also played defense for 4v4 situations).

Usage

D-men_medium

Player usage chart from extraskater.com.

EV Percentage of Team's Available TOI 5 on 5
ZS% ZS%rel EVTOI% PPTOI% SHTOI% QoC TOI% QoT TOI%
50.9% -1.0% 35.5% 65.4% 28.3% 29.1% 28.7%
5th 6th 3rd 1st 4th 2nd 3rd

Rankings are given for team out of 9 defensemen to play 20 or more games.

Byfuglien wasn't deployed extensively in the defensive or offensive zone more so than the other. He did however face the other team's top lines more than anyone not named Tobias Enstrom.

Big Buff's even strength ice time was severely cut with his games played as a forward, but he was rightfully the leader in power play time. As a defenseman, Byfuglien played a career high of short handed minutes, and wasn't terrible at it.

In 2011-12, Byfuglien was mostly deployed with Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little on the ice. In 2012-13 that changed to Evander Kane, Wheeler and Little. In 2013-14 Byfuglien was given some anchors with his typical forward linemates being Olli Jokinen, Devin Setoguchi and Blake Wheeler.

Underlying Numbers

Byfugliencorsi_medium

The y-axis is given to show the typical 40-60 sustainable spread seen for NHL calibre players. Players are compared to particular line/pair depending on 5v5 TOI per game. Population mean (average), median (50th percentile), and other percentiles are relative to player performance between 2007-12.

5v5 TOI Corsi% relCorsi% dCF/20 dCA/20 dCorsi%
17.01 50.4% +0.9% +1.492 +0.628 +1.170%

RelCorsi is team's percentage of shot attempts with player on ice minus shot attempts with player off ice. Delta Corsi values are team's shot attempt rates with player on ice, but relative to league norm given similar usage (quality of teammates, quality opponents, zone starts, and TOI). dCF/20 is shot attempts for -where a positive number is above average-, dCA/20 is shot attempts against -where a negative number is above average-, and dCorsi% is percentage of shot attempts.

At 17.01 5v5 minutes a game, Byfuglien played within the typical minutes of a top pair defenseman, while the Jet defender performed above average for most of the season. There is a significant trend downwards though, especially after his change to forward.

Byfuglien's team-low plus/minus was the focal point of much scrutiny, but Tyler Delow has shown that goal% (5v5 +/- in percent form) tends to regress towards a player's Corsi%. In other words, the discrepancy between Byfuglien's plus/minus and Corsi is most likely "bad puck-luck" driven. This seems even more likely when considering over the previous 3 seasons combined Byfuglien actually had the second best Jet/Thrasher 5v5 goal differential.

dCorsi shows that Byfuglien has excelled in creating shot volume although is not one for repressing opponents chances. In the end, Byfuglien causes more good than harm, contrary to some individuals belief.

Conclusion

Dustin Byfuglien is a pretty rare breed. He is a very big body that can move the puck well and is an elite offensive talent. He generates a huge volume of shots but has issues in his own zone. He is the embodiment of a famous quote from Dave Tippet.

Keep or lose?

There are a large number of variables that affect this choice. Byfuglien is probably the Jets best trade piece given his abilities, versatility, value, contract, age, and depth behind him - the Jets right shot defensive depth is impressive, or at least relatively so-. Also, Byfuglien can play the wing well -a position the Jets are not so endowed with in depth- while still playing point on the power play -a power play that is quite empty without Byfuglien-.

Bonus: Dustin Byfuglien the defender versus the forward

Buffdvf_medium

The y-axis is given to show the typical 40-60 sustainable Corsi% spread seen for NHL calibre players. The x-axis is number of games played.

This speaks volumes. In the long run, the Jets will be outscored more for minutes with Byfuglien on as a forward than a defenseman. In fact, with better goaltending, Jets would likely significantly outscore their opposition. This past season we saw saw Byfuglien with severe negative numbers in both situations.

However, what is best for Byfuglien, does not mean best for the team. There is no doubt Byfuglien is a better defenseman than forward -thus far-, but the opportunity costs may differ. This is dependent on Byfuglien's abilities and the Jets depth in the position he is not playing. In other words, the difference between Buff the defenseman and Jacob Trouba being smaller than the difference between Buff the forward and let's say Matt Halischuk may over power the difference of Buff the defenseman and Buff the forward.

All numbers are from Extra Skater, Behind the Net and Hockey Analysis

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