For all the talk of how Jacob Trouba and Josh Morrissey are the future of the Winnipeg Jets blue line – and they are – there is still but one king of the Jets defense in the here and now and it’s Dustin Byfuglien. Over the weekend, NHL Network confirmed that statement by putting Big Buff on their Top 20 Defensemen list for the second year in a row, this time up one spot to the number 11 position.
— NHL Network (@NHLNetwork) August 13, 2018
Buff’s offensive numbers dipped a little this past season – it was the first time in nine full NHL seasons that his goal total was limited to single digits – but that was largely due to the Jets coaching staff asking Buff to be more responsible on the defensive side of the ice and less like his usual “rover” self where his listing as a defensemen was merely taken as a suggestion as he would lead rushes up the ice with the puck or forecheck in an effort to create turnovers.
Two or three seasons ago, the Jets needed Buff’s shot to help generate offense as much as they needed his 6’5″ 260 pound frame to defend at the other end, now however the Jets have plenty of options at offense and while Buff’s shot is still quite lethal, it’s not a crutch that the team needs to lean on.
This isn’t to say that Buff isn’t a force to be reckoned with. The 2018 playoffs proved that with teams needing to “plan” on how to deal with Byfuglien – the Predators and Golden Knights going to the extraordinary length of playing a grinding forward with less talent than what was available to those teams, all in an effort to “stop Byfuglien.”
It wasn’t overly effective in either case. Buff had five goals and 16 points in 17 playoff games.
The defensemen listed ahead of Buff may have more skill with the puck or be better defensively, but as an overall package, there are few who can match what Buff brings to the ice. As NHL Network analyst – and former defenseman – Ken Daneyko said of Buff when talking about his spot at number 11.
“He’s big and dynamic. He’s a beast. He’s a linebacker on skates and changes the game in many different ways.”
The only thing that may be bigger than Buff’s stature and play on the ice is his personality which has been a joy to watch over the years.
Buff just chilling, singing in the box. pic.twitter.com/xqTY91w2A4
— JetsNation (@NHLJetsNation) February 17, 2018
What do you all think? Is Byfuglien ranked too low? Is he possibly listed too high? Let us know what you think of his Top 20 rank in the comments below our on both of our social media feeds!