Byfuglien back to the blueline? Big mistake?

The Jets are faced with a difficult decision over who will play defence
through the month of December. Due a string of injuries to some key rearguards,
the Jets will have a different look to it this month.

In last night’s 3-2 overtime victory against the Oilers, Zach Bogosian
took a shot off the foot awkwardly, and this morning he was placed on injured
reserve with a lower-body injury and is expected to be out 4-6 weeks. This is
not the first blow to the Jets defence, Toby Enstrom has missed straight games
while being listed as day-to-day. But Tuesday morning he was also placed on
injured reserve with a lower-body injury. Finally it has been announced by Paul
Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun that
Grant Clitsome is expected to miss two weeks with an undisclosed injury.
Leaving just four healthy defencemen on the roster; Mark Stuart, Jacob Trouba,
Paul Postma and Adam Pardy.

Both Enstrom and Bogosian will be out for the remainder of the month and
Clitsome is expected to only miss two weeks, but there is no knowing if he will
be ready by that time. For the time being the Jets had made a pair of roster
moves calling up Ben Chiarot and Julien Brouillette from the St. John’s IceCaps
in the AHL. But that is still only six rearguards on the roster, the Jets also
made a decision to move Dustin Byfuglien back to defence during this morning’s
practice. In my opinion this is a huge mistake.

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Byfuglien is much better suited as a forward who plays on the point
during the powerplay; his huge frame is an advantage up in front of the
opposition’s net. Since being put on a line with Evander Kane and Mathieu
Perreault, Byfuglien has started to pick up his offensive game and has opened
up the ice more for Kane and Perrault to start picking up their games as well.

Byfuglien currently has five goals and six assists this season, which
puts him fourth on the team in points with 11. He only trails the top line
Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Bryan Little in that category.

Also by playing on forward Byfuglien’s minutes are less than what he
might be expected to play while on the point. This season Byfuglien has
averaged a time on ice of 19:50 per game, while last season where Buff played
mostly defence his TOI/GP was 23:05, more than three minutes more than this
season. In my opinion the limited minutes is better for Byfuglien’s game.

Finally the lack of Jets forwards scares me, who will replace
Byfuglien’s game should he move back to the blueline? Matt Halischuk? Anthony
Peluso? TJ Galiardi? None of these guys can do what Buff does on a regular

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I had it my way, I would be calling up a third rearguard from St. John’s. I’m
not sure what Keaton Ellerby did to upset coach Maurice, but I feel he is a guy
that would fill in just fine. What do you think?

  • Robert Cleave

    Good grief, no. Keaton Ellerby is a) hurt, and b)openly terrible, with several years of evidence to back that up. Even if he was healthy, calling him up would be worse by an order of magnitude than calling up O’Dell to fill a forward spot for a month while moving a two time all-star back to his preferred position.

    The Jets’ offence has missed Buff’s passing from the back all season, and now that the forwards are doing a better job of positional play, a lot of the things that caught Buff out before, like joining the rush with no one filling in behind him, are less likely to occur. I don’t doubt they’ll miss him up front, but he’s far and away the best man for the job on D, and at least for now, that’s the area of urgent need.

  • Kevin McCartney

    I tend to agree with your thesis, Robert. There’s been a lot of focus on the Jets’ much better goals against and that fact has led to less commentary about what the team could be doing better. In my opinion, it’s not surprise the team is scoring less now that Buf is up front. He’s their best offensive player in my opinion, and simply has less impact as a winger (which was the point in moving him at the time).

    A lot of the problems with the team have been sorted by Maurice – the forwards manage lateral lanes in defensive transition, they collapse to protect the shooting lanes in set-zone play (after years of an overload stack that led to break downs), and the break out is controlled and no longer a fast break.

    I’m REALLY excited to see what Buf looks like with effective forward support. He spent years covering for a poor system with his personal capabilities. I’m dying to know whether he emerges as an elite option with more structure, or if he’s a fiddle out of tune out there.

    It’s a neat natural experiment.