Buff being Buff

Jets defenceman big hit with media in Columbus


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COLUMBUS -- This was not the time or the place for Dustin Byfuglien to reveal his deepest, darkest secrets.

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This article was published 24/01/2015 (3047 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

COLUMBUS — This was not the time or the place for Dustin Byfuglien to reveal his deepest, darkest secrets.

His phobias? His life goals? The most-influential people in his world? That’s the kind of stuff the Winnipeg Jets defenceman might — MIGHT — reveal one day while plopped down on a therapist’s couch or under a hypnotist’s spell.

Now, all of this isn’t to say that Byfuglien wasn’t engaging or thoughtful during media day at the 2015 NHL All-Star Game. In a 17-minute Q & A session with the press — and 17 minutes might be the sum total of all the interviews he’s conducted back home this season — the big man had those assembled leaning in to catch his every word.


One of the gems, when asked if he ever had any doubts he’d get a crack at playing defence again:

“No, I knew I’d be back there sooner or later. It’s just enough bitching.”

Laughter ensued.

Still, not a whole lot of layers were stripped away from Byfuglien who, during his days as a Jet, has been both a lightning rod of criticism and a lightning bolt of inspiration, on Friday. He talked about the transformation of his game to the point where videos of his hits have been put together in highlight form and he is being mentioned as a James Norris Trophy candidate.

He spoke of the Jets overall transformation from playoff afterthought to a possible scary first-round opponent.

He talked about the special skates he’ll wear this weekend, featuring a splash of the neon green that will be prominent in the jerseys.

He was asked about being a contender in the hardest-shot competition.

But there were also some goofy moments that must have had him wishing he was somewhere else, like the rest of his Jets teammates. Yours truly asked him what he’d be doing if he wasn’t at the All-Star festivities and he answered: “Probably ice fishing.”

That prompted this follow up question from another media type: “What do you like most about fishing?

Byfuglien shrugged, then added: “I guess… catching fish.”

Riveting stuff, we know.

Mind you, during the course of his confab there were some telling moments. And piecing together a few of Byfuglien’s answers there was a real sense of how inspired he is being back on the blue-line, that he has a great appreciation for the system the coaching staff has hammered home and this current stretch of personal and team play might make for the most fun he’s had in the game since helping the Chicago Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup in the spring of 2010.

“I’m enjoying it. It’s a game. I’m just playing it,” he said. “And when our team’s doing well then everyone’s doing well. Sometimes you get some good bounces and you can stick out a little bit. We’ve changed our game plan and our systems. To go back on ‘D’ now and have such a big impact right away is nice. The way our team’s been playing just makes it easier to play.”

The Jets, at 26-14-8, have the sixth-most points in the Western Conference and currently hold down the first wild-card playoff spot. Byfuglien has seen a change in the dressing room, too.

There is more accountability from a group that, essentially, has had its core remain untouched since touching down in Winnipeg. There is more resiliency and structure, too.

“We’ve definitely turned a corner up there,” said Byfuglien. “Our game has come a long way. Our locker-room is better, we’ve handled things a lot better… it’s definitely changed. It’s a good thing and it’s fun to be a part of.

“It’s just little things. Like the way everyone prepares. And if we get down, we don’t just quit. We stick together. We have found a way to get over that curve and just continue to play our game and battle back into a game. Little steps you’ve got to take to become a good team. We’re taking the right steps right now.

“When it’s time to play, we just go out there and do it. Just play together. It’s good.”

That last sentence, in a nutshell, might just also sum up Byfuglien’s own game. He’s going out there and doing it right now — scoring, defending and regularly wallpapering forwards along the boards. And it’s been good. Very good.

ed.tait@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @WFPEdTait

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