Dustin Byfuglien has shown a ton of growth since he and the rest of the team made the move up to Winnipeg in the fall of 2011. The first few years were not very kind to him. Constantly dogged by both fans and media members alike for his wild playing style along with the absolutely ridiculous concerns regarding his weight; he was constantly being debated as to whether or not he was an asset worth keeping around.
This year, it is safe to say Byfuglien finally turned the corner and silenced all doubters about how valuable he truly is to this team. He put up fifty-three points in eighty-one games. Byfuglien was the third highest scoring player and the highest scoring defenseman on the team. The second was Tyler Myers at twenty-seven. That doesn't even come close to his numbers. Byfuglien is able to change the course of a game on a dime. Whether it's delivering a devastating hit or lighting up the lamp, he is one of the best in the game and this has certainly been noticed by the rest of the league. He represented the Winnipeg Jets at the All-Star game and has been chosen to represent team USA at the World Cup in September.
When it comes to the human factor, Byfuglien is possibly the most beloved guy in the dressing room. It was never more clear after practice when Paul Maurice announced he signed a five year contract extension and he was absolutely mobbed by the rest of the team. He's a much needed veteran voice in a locker room that will only be getting younger. With a Stanley Cup on his resume along with over six hundred NHL games, he will have more than enough experience to help guide the youth in the right direction.
The big fear that the everyone has is how much longer can Byfuglien's body hold up. He's a big man that plays a very violent style of play which causes a lot of wear and tear in all the important places (knees and shoulders being the key ones). Will we see a drop in year three? Or will the Buff train keep rolling all the way until the end? Regardless of when he does slow down we need to remember that he is absolutely irreplaceable. There are plenty of Andrew Ladd's in the NHL that you can acquire through free agency, drafting, and trades. But there is only one Dustin Byfuglien. Thankfully we can call him a Winnipeg Jet for the foreseeable future.