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Byfuglien suspension not as juicy as it sounds

Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended. Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files



Winnipeg Jets #33, Dustin Byfuglien, at practice with team at IcePlex Monday.



See Mike Sawatzky story.  



Feb 04, 19

Dustin Byfuglien has been suspended. Ruth Bonneville / Winnipeg Free Press files Winnipeg Jets #33, Dustin Byfuglien, at practice with team at IcePlex Monday. See Mike Sawatzky story. Feb 04, 19

The move by the Winnipeg Jets to suspend Dustin Byfuglien might sound like a juicy story, but it isn't that newsworthy.

TSN's Bob McKenzie reported on Twitter on Saturday night that the Jets had suspended Byfuglien without pay until further notice for failing to report to training camp.

By no means was it a malicious move by the Jets. According to McKenzie, the decision was made as a way to "protect roster and cap flexibility" until the Jets know if Byfuglien is going to return or not. If Byfuglien doesn't report to the team by the opening day of the regular season, his cap hit won't count towards the salary cap. It's been reported Byfuglien, who requested a leave of absence from the team at the beginning of training camp, is mulling retirement. Byfuglien, 34, had four goals and 27 assists in 42 games with the Jets last season.

Jets head coach Paul Maurice was asked about the suspension after the team's morning skate at Bell MTS Iceplex on Sunday.

"It was absolutely procedural and Dustin was aware of it," said Maurice, who met with Byfuglien on Thursday.

Blake Wheeler and Mark Scheifele found themselves back on the same line in Sunday's preseason tilt at home against the Calgary Flames. While Maurice was brief with his comments on Byfuglien, he spoke in-depth as to what the Jets were trying to accomplish by splitting Wheeler and Scheifele up in previous exhibition games.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice talks about the teams top defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press  

190913 - Friday, September 13, 2019.

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice talks about the teams top defenceman Dustin Byfuglien. Mike Deal / Winnipeg Free Press 190913 - Friday, September 13, 2019.

"It wasn't for Mark and Blake. It was for Adam Lowry and Andrew Copp. Just a different way of viewing the game and then Mark to work with different wingers. So what Mark and Blake have is a language on the ice, where they want each other, ideas of how the two of them play off each other. It's a big part of their success. And that idea was they would share that language with other players and they can start benefiting from that knowledge and chemistry so much."

Nik Ehlers got a chance to show his stuff on the first line on Sunday as he played on the wing alongside Wheeler and Scheifele. Ehlers had 21 goals and 16 assists in 62 games last year where he predominantly played with Patrik Laine and Bryan Little on the second line. Ehlers has had some spurts on the top line before and Maurice said he liked what he saw from the 23-year-old Danish forward in that spot in the past.

"Anybody that goes there, to play with those two, to keep up with those two, the best of your game has to come out," Maurice added. "What we need (Ehlers) to be able to do is sustain it. To be able to play at that level, you know, he's not a kid anymore. So, we've talked about the youth and all that, but Nikki's been here a little bit now. He's got some years under his belt. He needs to change gears and be a man on the ice and be able to weather that, play against the other team's best, win battles, be fast."

Also getting a chance to learn from some experienced talent on Sunday was a pair of former first-round draft picks — Kristian Vesalainen and Jack Roslovic. The young forwards were on the second line with Bryan Little. Maurice spoke before the game on what he hopes Vesalainen and Roslovic take away from playing alongside a 12-year NHL veteran in Little.

"Jack is going to get an opportunity, again, to work with a centre iceman that works consistently harder than he does. That's not an attack on Jack, that's true of all of these young guys. Bryan Little's consistency is impeccable in his games. Every shift, goes as hard as he can, gets off the ice. The young players don't do that. They've gone from amateur hockey where they've coasted around until they had a chance to score and then they turned it on. So, that's what Jack's getting. For Ves, again, it's the communication. Where he wants you on the ice. The centre directs so much of that."

The Jets are hoping Roslovic takes a big step forward this year, as the 22-year-old from Columbus had 24 points last year in his first full season in the NHL. Roslovic spent the majority of the year bouncing between the third and fourth lines.

"When you see Jack Roslovic at that shift he's at his best, you get excited," Maurice said. "And I understand then why people would say, 'Hey, if you played him with better players he'd score more.' (It's) an argument I've heard. But what he needs to do is play that shift more often away from the puck."

taylor.allen@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @TaylorAllen31

Taylor Allen

Taylor Allen
Reporter

Eighteen years old and still in high school, Taylor got his start with the Free Press on June 1, 2011. Well, sort of.

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