Which players compare closest to Byfuglien at forward and defense?

Dustin Byfuglien always has been an interesting specimen to study. He represents the new push in analytical thinking: how a player can have flaws (perceived or real) and make up for them in other areas, making them the better choice.

The tides are slowly changing. People are starting to notice how much amazing Byfuglien has been at defense. The issue though is there seems to be a disconnect in how Byfuglien plays at forward and how it’s not much better than a lot of the Jets current depth options.

Let’s take a look.

Here are the major statistics in terms of the Winnipeg Jets results with Byfuglien on the ice and Byfuglien’s point scoring pace over the past two seasons.

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As we’ve discussed previously, Jets own the larger share of directed shots attempts with Byfuglien on the ice as a defender as shown by Corsi%. They own a lesser share than their opponents as a forward. The Jets also perform better with Byfuglien on the ice as a defender than they do with Byfuglien on the bench. The opposite is true as a forward, where the Jets perform better with Byfuglien off the ice than on.

Interestingly, Byfuglien has scored at an identical pace as a forward than as a defender. Of course, these performances are not relatively equal in both positions. As a forward, Byfuglien’s 1.19 points per sixty pace is between average fourth and third line scoring. Only six defenders with 1000+ minutes though have scored more than 1.19 points per sixty minutes over the last two seasons.

Which players compare closest to Byfuglien the forward and Byfuglien the defender in terms of on-ice results?

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Now, these statistical comparables are not perfect. The numbers are not adjusting for usage or team strength. How many of these defenders play most of their TOI with partners like Ben Chiarot or Grant Clitsome (who are decent, but not great options).

The list of forwards are not exactly a list of the league’s elite. These players are barely top nine. How many of the teams on the left would trade straight up for one of the forwards on the right?

In fact, the Jets former and current bottom players are not all that different from Dustin Byfuglien.

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Klingberg’s minutes are extremely small sample, and why we get such a dichotomy in Corsi and point pace results.

Dustin Byfuglien is an interesting study case, as he both seems to be highly underrated as a defender and highly overrated as a forward in terms of impact.

The Jets forward corpse health seems to be hanging by a thread, but moving Byfuglien to forward may not be the best choice. Right now it’s a matter of simply having 12 forwards. Still, when assessing moving Byfuglien from defense to forward, it is imperative to have an appropriate sense of Byfuglien’s impact at each position.

It’s also important to understand the impact each position has on the game:


The numbers above are the estimated goal differential spread over 82 games between the top 10% of players at a particular depth position to the bottom 10%.