Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION
Posted: 03/30/2013 7:05 PM | Comments: 0
Dustin Byfuglien can be better and he must be if the Winnipeg Jets are going to proceed as a playoff team and perhaps beyond.
He looks tired right now. That’s not an adjective a hockey player wants attached to his game. It doesn’t offer much promise for success.
Byfuglien, who has six goals and 15 assists through 31 games, remains an unsolved enigma. The Jets have worked with him to improve his off-season conditioning so he can be consistently dominant. It hasn’t happened and now when they need him most, he appears out of juice and unable to summon his powers.
The margin of error for the Jets is too thin for their best players to disappear such as Byfuglien has of late, as he’s collected three points and been a minus-four over his last six games.
Saturday the big blue-liner was OK and likely the best he’s been after a number of sub-par games. But OK isn’t enough where Byfuglien and the Jets are concerned.
Jets coach Claude Noel paused and considered his answer when asked to assess Byfuglien’s play over the last five or six games.
"Well, he’s been... I’ll just say up and down," replied Noel, leaving much open to interpretation.
Noel has stated Byfuglien can be an elite defender and it must be frustrating to have him floating along in the pack. If Byfuglien wanted to separate himself from the rest and join names like Chara and Weber he could. They have nothing on him in raw ability.
But he’s not there and it’s beginning to look like he never will be.
Byfuglien can and has been dominant. He’s almost always the fastest and most powerful of the big men on the ice. His cocktail of speed and size makes him different than 99 per cent of the NHL. There have been nights when he takes your breath away combining the power of a souped-up Hemi with the finesse of a virtuoso musician. Byfuglien has soft hands. PGA golfer soft.
But his day-in and day-out play does not distinguish him as one of the NHL’s best. He lacks consistency and as the Jets head down the stretch and play their most meaningful games of the season he’s been found lacking.
Following Saturday’s 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes a request to speak to Byfuglien was made but not filled.
He doesn’t like to speak to the media. I don’t know Byfuglien. Not at all. Have never had a conversation with him other than in a scrum. I’m told he’s competitive and has a great sense of humour. I do know this: his teammates love him.
That’s usually an indicator for what a player brings to a team. Teammates most often aren’t willing to allow a player to drag them down. Byfuglien can’t be accused of that but by holding himself back, he holds the Jets back.
Can it be argued that if he were in elite condition he wouldn’t be more effective? No it cannot.
Byfuglien plays hard minutes. When he takes the puck up ice and works down low in the offensive zone, he often is forced to hold defenders off to protect the puck while waiting for an opening.
When a turnover results, the energy expended to get back in the play is crushing. It leaves Byfuglien spent.
One might argue Noel should manage his minutes better and hold him off the ice a little more but that would only mean increasing the minutes of lesser players.
A tired Byfuglien is still better than most of his teammates. Limiting his ice would be counterproductive when the alternatives are considered.
Noel will have to continue to lean on Byfuglien. Maybe this is just a funk and he’ll bounce back. But if he’s out of energy and can’t rebound, the Jets are at a loss. A major loss. Right when they need some wins.
Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories? Please use the form below and let us know.
Having problems with the form?Contact Us Directly
Mom heading to Australia with son aquitted of abduction
Canada's Bouchard out at Australian Open
Canada expands avian flu poultry ban from U.S.
Feds planning changes to Nutrition North program after it was blasted by auditor general
CentreVenture will have to invite new proposals, will compete against True North
Nadal loses in quarterfinals to Berdych at Australian Open
Ex-CIA officer convicted of leaking secrets to reporter
Deputy: Police kill man who fired at officers in Minnesota
Locals rally for Ukrainian pilot being held as PoW
Warming huts from The Forks headed to Winter Design Festival in Ottawa
Speedway International fined after its plant was destroyed by blaze in St. Boniface
New application ready for UNESCO recognition for boreal forest
ISIL praises October slaying of soldier in Ottawa
Snowstorm threatens to paralyze the crowded Northeast US
Mom on trial accused of killing 5-year-old with salt
Hydro works on different section of Bipole III
Debate over fiscal policy, oil, heats up
Church of England consecrates first female bishop
Mountie had capacity to change world: sister
Are feds about to act on unpaid interns?
Documentary on Death From Above's rise, fall and return to play at Cinematheque
Nutrition labels too hard to digest: study
Russia announces anti-crisis plan after rating downgrade
Canada finds first case of H7N9 bird flu
What Canadian teams must do to make playoffs
True North adding new seating as part of improvement plan
CP NewsAlert: Bouchard out at Australian Open
Man going to jail for giving deadly morphine dosage
Watch: Linden MacIntyre speaks about issues at the CBC and his new novel
Spain: 10 dead, 21 hurt in crash of Greek F-16 jet at base
Cineplex to launch new entertainment complex
Winnipegger cashes in $1-M lotto ticket
Vets jobs bill flawed: military ombudsman
Allard wants better whistleblower protection for city staff
Mayes, Browaty: questions remain on convention centre mess
Dalhousie student will take part in hearing
Committee wants legal details of opening up Portage & Main
Winnipeg Cheapskate: All-Inclusive vacation the best deal?
Revised UNESCO bid for boreal forest
Lessons from 9/11 still need learning