We have two player review logo books left to go and we saved them for the two best Jets players at forward and on defense. Today’s logbook looks at Dustin Byfuglien who took on a couple of new challenges asked of him by the Jets coaching staff and still excelled at them.
#33 – RH DEFENSEMAN
6’5″ / 260 lbs / Age: 33
Current Contract Status: Signed through 2020-21 ($7,600,000/yr)
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PLAYER’S SEASON IN REVIEW
By Dustin Byfuglien standards, it was a off year. A career low in goals for (the work stoppage 2012-13 season not included) his first goal of the season didn’t actually come until January 5 against Buffalo but part of his lack of goal production can be explained a couple of different ways.
Video of #NHLJets Big Buff's first goal of the season…
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) January 6, 2018
His injury that took him out for pretty much all of December didn’t help matters. He missed 10 games while dealing with a lower body injury.
On the ice though, his 372 shots attempted and 193 shots on goal were his lowest numbers as a full-time defenseman and that simply has a lot to do with the fact that Buff’s big shot is no longer the Jets primary weapon. Before Laine or Wheeler at the wings or Scheifele up the middle were any kind of real threats, the biggest thing an opposing team had to worry about from the Jets was Byfuglien’s cannon. In some cases in previous seasons, the Jets over-relied on that shot to generate offense, especially when it came to the man advantage.
Despite the dip in goal scoring, his assist total remained high and for the fourth straight season he averaged 0.65 points per game, so it wasn’t like his offense completely fell off the face of the earth, it just became a little bit less of what definded him on the ice.
With the Jets attack now multi-faceted and able to come at teams from different angles, Byfuglien was tasked this season with being more of a defensive player and not play the “rover” role that we’ve seen him do with regularity in past seasons. Paul Maurice also played him less – almost a three full minutes less of average ice time this past season compared to the 2016-17 season and also didn’t always put the big man out on the ice in key situations – again, a product of the Jets being a deeper, more complete team – which is also something he had to adjust to.
He’s still a strong player in his own end and allows very little offense in front of the net as his unblocked shot rate map from this past season can attest.
Most of Buff’s ice time was spent with Tobias Enstrom – 47% of Buff’s 5v5 ice time was spent with Toby as his partner – and together they made for quite a strong defensive pairing.
Dustin still had defensive lapses, but I feel as though it can be argued those were fewer and far between this past season than they were in previous years which was a product of coaches asking him to “fall back” into a defensive position rather than take added risks with carrying the puck into the offensive zone or trying to make a ill-advised pinch from the offensive blue line.
The less-risk Buff didn’t make him any less fun to watch on the ice though.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) March 26, 2018
Buff just chilling, singing in the box. pic.twitter.com/xqTY91w2A4
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) February 17, 2018
There are few universal truths in hockey, but one of them is that the playoffs were made for Dustin Byfuglien. Big Buff was simply a force at both ends of the ice and by the time the third round rolled in, fans and media alike were in awe of Byfuglien’s play and teams like Nashville and Vegas had to deploy players like Scott Hartnell and Ryan Reeves specifically with the thought of keeping big 33 occupied and away from disrupting the play of their higher end players.
Seriously, this entire logbook entry could have just been tweets and videos of Buff’s antics in the playoffs.
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) April 14, 2018
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) April 15, 2018
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) May 2, 2018
Dustin Byfuglien is a monster. Handling a Predator with each arm. pic.twitter.com/wowwbFihvX
— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) April 30, 2018
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) May 17, 2018
Although he still may have hold of the title, Dustin Byfuglien is no longer the clear and absolute best defenseman on the Winnipeg Jets. Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey have developed into a great pair and while neither have passed Buff quite yet as better overall defensemen, the gap isn’t as wide as it used to be. Byfuglien is still the most important defenseman the Jets have and his reduced ice time should only help preserve his rugged style of play which is a game changer most nights.