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Buff's miscues minimal

Errors made on right wing not nearly as costly as on D

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Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews tries to dangle past the Jets' Dustin Byfuglien. Buff as a forward has delivered obvious benefits

CHARLES REX ARBOGAST / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS Enlarge Image

Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews tries to dangle past the Jets' Dustin Byfuglien. Buff as a forward has delivered obvious benefits

CHICAGO -- The Dustin Byfuglien hybrid experiment is now into its eighth game and some trends -- good and bad -- are developing.

The most obvious is the Jets' 6-1 record since Paul Maurice took over. But the Buff as a forward concept has delivered obvious benefits. Byfuglien could be a force as an offensive defenceman but he was also dangerous in that he was often on for goals against.

Looking at the statistics after a Jets game would often reveal the hulking Minnesota native was on the ice for the majority of the goals scored. For and against.

Since moving to right wing on the third line, Byfuglien's mistakes have been marginalized. If he loses the puck it's usually not in a last line of defence scenario as it was so often when he was on the blue-line.

New coach Maurice has tried to get the best of both worlds with Byfuglien, using him on the blue-line in power-play and four-on-four situations.

All in all it's been a pretty good fit. One area where Byfuglien seems to struggle up front is when the Jets face a fast opponent. Byfuglien can move when he gets a full head of steam but he's not quick and when he's forced to stop and start a lot he can disappear.

Whether that's something that can be improved upon over the long haul remains to be seen.

RFA for Fro

Michael Frolik will be a restricted free agent this summer and has to be one of GM Kevin Cheveldayoff's priority signings. Frolik has been used up and down the lineup and right now finds himself on the top line. He's excellent defensively and has some offensive creativity in his game. Frolik is making $2.3 million this season and an immediate raise to $3 million doesn't seem out of line. A four-year deal with $12 million at the top end wouldn't seem unfair for either side.

UFA for Stu

Veteran defenceman Mark Stuart is making a case to be re-signed and remain with the Jets as he heads towards unrestricted free agency this summer. Stuart has been steady and a strong influence on rookie Jacob Trouba this season. There are some things outsiders don't see on a regular basis, but Stuart rarely takes days off following a loss, setting an old-school example lacking in the Jets dressing room. Stuart will stick up for his teammates and respects the fan base. He is willing to stand in front of a microphone and talk to the ticket-buying public during goods times and bad. Stuart isn't most gifted player but he has guts. A team needs a few guys like Stuart. Letting him walk would leave a void.

Trade deadline

The Jets almost certainly won't be in a playoff position when the trade deadline arrives on March 4, which is just eight games from now. Winnipeg was eight points out of a wild-card spot heading into Sunday's action. So GM Kevin Cheveldayof will have to look into his crystal ball and guess about the future once again while determining if he should be a buyer or a seller. Count on the latter. Look for Olli Jokinen and Devin Setoguchi to be in play. Cheveldayoff may risk moving Stuart and then still try to re-sign him on July 1, but that's dangerous move if he wants the gamer back for next season.

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

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition January 27, 2014 C3

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