Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Big Buff worth weight in gold

Now that Jets' D-man is 30 pounds lighter

  • Print

The argument was often made if Dustin Byfuglien ever got serious he'd be a Norris Trophy candidate. Proof meet pudding.

Playing the best hockey of his career, Byfuglien has transformed from an oddity to a commodity.

Midway through last season he was in a battle with his own team over conditioning and his style of play. Today he's coach Claude Noel's favourite player and a contender to play for Team USA at the Olympics.

Having the name Dustin Byfuglien and the word Olympian in the same sentence would have drawn sneers and scoffs last season. No longer. Losing in the neighbourhood of 30 pounds in the off-season and deciding to focus on the defensive side of the game, rather than play rover every other shift, has changed how the hockey world sees Byfuglien.

"We've had a lot of scouting on Winnipeg in person and on TV. We have a committee of seven guys involved and watching and we've had a number of conference calls, and Buff is clearly in the mix," said David Poile, GM of both the Predators and Team USA. "We probably are pretty sure on three or four guys and then there are 10 other guys that are up in the air, of which Buff is one."

Byfuglien has not only overcome his reputation as a player more known for risk than reward, but also the stigma of refusing to play for Team USA at the world championships the last couple of springs.

"We've gotten past that," said Poile, before moving on to extol Byfuglien's attributes. "His size jumps out at you. Who doesn't want size on a team? He skates great for a big man. His hockey sense is real good. His ability to generate offence is real good. The bigger ice surface, I think, would favour his game. He's got some real good things going for him."

Noel has said on a number of occasions this season that Byfuglien has been his most consistent player.

"He's been reliable. He's taken the ups and downs out of his game," said Noel. "He's minimized the risk in his game and this leads to way more stability in our back end... He hasn't traded the offence for just defence. You see it in the numbers we track. We track scoring chances for and against when a player is on the ice. They're a lot better this year than last year. He's on the ice against the other team's better players all the time and often that makes a player a minus in the numbers we track, but clearly he's been better in that area this year."

Poile said Byfuglien was a bit of wild card for his selection committee this summer.

"Buff's body of work got him to the orientation camp. But there are situations and circumstances with every player that you need to know more about. Conditioning aspects," said Poile. "We've had lots of discussions with other GMs that have maybe had (Byfuglien) before. Talked to his coach, to his GM."

Getting Byfuglien to buy in was a major project for Noel and Jets management this summer. The payoff has been there for both sides as the Jets got an elite player from within their own system, while Byfuglien has been able to realize more of his vast potential.

While Byfuglien has raised his game he's also raised the bar. Seeing what he's done so far it's become evident he can do even more. There's no reason Byfuglien's name shouldn't be mentioned with the Shea Webers and Zdeno Charas of the NHL.

The Jets have a world-class player in their midst. Byfuglien has taken the first step. The question is, will this satisfy him or make him hungry for more?

Byfuglien can take it even farther. He can be among the best. The Jets need to find a way to push him to the next level. It's what is best for both the player and the team. Win, win.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 C3

Fact Check

Fact Check

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.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose gobbles up grass at Fort Whyte Alive Monday morning- Young goslings are starting to show the markings of a adult geese-See Bryksa 30 day goose challenge- Day 20– June 11, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Water lilys are reflected in the pond at the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden Tuesday afternoon. Standup photo. Sept 11,  2012 (Ruth Bonneville/Winnipeg Free Press)

View More Gallery Photos

About Gary Lawless

Gary Lawless is the Free Press sports columnist and co-host of the Hustler and Lawless show on TSN 1290 Winnipeg and www.winnipegfreepress.com
Lawless began covering sports as a rookie reporter at The Chronicle-Journal in Thunder Bay after graduating from journalism school at Durham College in Ontario.
After a Grey Cup winning stint with the Toronto Argonauts in the communications department, Lawless returned to Thunder Bay as sports editor.
In 1999 he joined the Free Press and after working on the night sports desk moved back into the field where he covered pro hockey, baseball and football beats prior to being named columnist.

Poll

Do you think Manitoba needs stronger regulations for temporary workers?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google