Few players are as singular in style, stature, and approach to hockey as Dustin Byfuglien. In a sea of fast, speedy skaters, the hulking Byfuglien combines tenacity, physicality, and venomous offensive instincts into a menacing package on the ice. Unfortunately, this season may have been a warning shot across the bow for us to prepare for his decline. While Dustin was as effective as he usually is, the regular season only lasted 42 games for him. Betwixt a myriad of injuries and ailments, the booming right-shot was forced to the sidelines for long stretches of the year.
When Byfuglien was on the ice, good things typically occurred for Winnipeg. In the offensive zone, his trigger happy tendencies continued to cause havoc for opposing netminders and defenders. In Dustin’s own end of the ice, his defensive positioning and crease-clearing ability heavily discouraged shots against. As he ages and his mobility decreases, we may see an increased focus on defensive zone coverages and shot suppression. Enstrom, though a much more extreme case, found ways to surmount his shattered knees and size to cut off passing lanes and shooting opportunities. Byfuglien may need to adopt a similar approach. You’re gonna feel old when I say this, but he’s 33.
I can’t really call Byfuglien’s season a success by the usual standards, but he was a positive influence on the game at even-strength when he played. His power play work was a bit more suspect, but Winnipeg’s special teams as a whole were a bit of a mess. It’s hard to say what Dustin’s future holds, but for now, he’s going to play an extremely pivotal role in Trouba’s absence. Until Winnipeg acquires another top-4 defenseman or two, Byfuglien is now the Jets’ best right-shot D.
It’s painful to admit, but we may be in trouble if Winnipeg can’t get defensive support. The rumors continue to swirl around Ehlers, and all I can think is how disastrous next year will be if the Jets lose Nik. Winnipeg was never great this season, but the team completely broke when Ehlers went out from injury. Coupled with the decimation of the blueline, and it’s hard to imagine how Winnipeg leaves this off-season in good straits. Byfuglien’s aging is only going to make matters worse, and my fanxiety is in high gear. Whatever you do, Chevy, trade carefully.