Winnipeg Jets head coach Claude Noel calls Dustin Byfuglien "a special player."
Noel is not incorrect. As a hockey star, Byfuglien is a different breed of cat. For one thing, he’s 6-foot-5, 265 pounds and even in a league that is getting bigger with every draft, Byfuglien is still a very large human. For another, he has a monster shot that makes him a threat from the point and an awesome offensive weapon around the net.
He’s also won a Stanley Cup championship, played in an all-star game and battled for the NHL’s scoring lead among defensemen. He has everything that makes a great player — size, speed, skill and experience.
However, he still isn’t perfect. Especially as a defenseman. Despite his gifts, he’s a minus-eight and has had a penchant for giving the puck away at the most inopportune times. Early in the season, Byfuglien’s glaring errors in the neutral zone cost the Jets four games.
It would appear he’s also become expendable. Since leaving the lineup with a "lower body injury," (what a load of crap, everybdy knows he’s been limping around on a sore knee), the Jets have won three straight. They went on the road and played a terrific game in a 4-1 win over Colorado and then came back home and beat the L.A. Kings 1-0 in overtime and the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 in another defensive struggle.
Since the team’s "best defenseman," according to the Winnipeg Free Press, departed the lineup, the Jets have allowed just three goals in 181 minutes and nine seconds (a 0.98 goals against average). In other words, the Jets have been significantly better defensively without Byfuglien than with him.
Now, to be fair, Tobias Enstrom has returned from injury and Mark Flood has played much better than expected, but a defense made up of Zach Bogosian (who is playing like an all-star), Mark Stuart, Ron Hainsey, Johnny Oduya, Enstrom and Flood, has been a step up. In fact, Oduya has been siginificantly better without his regular defensive partner.
So here’s a thought: If you don’t want to move Byfuglien up to forward (which would be a smart thing tio do), why not think about trading him?
The Jets have had two weak spots in the first two and a half months of the season: (a) they turn over the puck far too often and (b) they go through periods in which they just can’t score. Well, why not kill two birds with one bullet and trade Byfuglien for a scorer?
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think.