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
Brian Bowman wins mayoral battle
Gilroy seizes Daniel McIntyre after close race
DNA testing will determine if accused is mother of 6 dead infants
Schreyer unseats Steen in Elmwood-East Kildonan
Dobson finds his groove in fourth election attempt
Canada won't be cowed by terrorist attack: PM
Capital-region voters send law-and-order message
Morantz edges Duncan in Charleswood-Tuxedo
Dierks Bentley gets Winnipeg’s vote
Scott Gillingham wins in St. James-Brooklands
Lukes wins boss' vacated seat in St. Norbert
Orlikow beats Taz in River Heights-Fort Garry
Bruce Henley re-elected mayor in West St. Paul
Family, friends, colleagues bid farewell to Lindor Reynolds
Pagtakhan retains Point Douglas seat
Pike new mayor in St. Andrews
Devi Sharma squeaks in win in Old Kildonan
Wyatt reinstated in Transcona
Voters stick with status quo for school boards
Winnipeg votes: Oct. 22, 2014
Mayes re-elected in St. Vital
Eadie back for second term in Mynarski
Matt Allard elected councillor in St. Boniface
Gerbasi holds down Fort Rouge-East Fort Garry
Browaty holds on to North Kildonan
Voter turnout highest in a decade
Bombers offensive line uncertain heading into must-win game against B.C.
Soldier killed in Parliament Hill siege
Expert: Autopsy doesn't show if Brown went for gun
Man, 26, killed in crash on Highway 3 between Sanford and Oak Bluff
Family: Doctors don't detect Ebola in nurse's body
Attorney says Kings' Voynov didn't hit girlfriend
Jets apply tourniquet
Senate to hear more cluster bomb testimony
Who's your mayor?
Security at Manitoba Legislature tightened after Ottawa shooting
Griddle me this
Drop by News Café on election night
Bradlee recalled as a genius, great journalist
Last chance to vote: Polls open until 8 p.m.