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Photo Credit: © Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

Pilots Logbook 2018-19: Dustin Byfuglien

It was a rough season for Dustin Byfuglien who had to sit out nearly half the games due to injury. He played excellent hockey when he was healthy, but was limited to just 42 contests all year. The rest of the team struggled without Byfuglien in the lineup, which isn’t surprising given his important role in the organization. Even with the injuries, Byfuglien was able to make an impact at both ends of the ice. Let’s take a look at the good and the bad of Byfuglien’s season.

Dustin Byfuglien
33 – Defense
6’5″ / 260 lbs / Age: 34

The Numbers

DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN’S 2018-19 REGULAR SEASON STATS
Season GP G A PTS +/- PIM S S% TSA ATOI BLK HIT TK GV
2018-19 42 4 27 31 4 69 115 3.5 228 24:22 51 77 21 39
Career 869 177 348 525 -8 1094 2612 6.8 4828 21:56 786 1897 571 660

 

DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN’S 2018-19 REGULAR SEASON ADVANCED STATS (5V5)
Cors Cors Cors Cors Fenw Fenw Fenw Fenw PDO PDO PDO PDO PDO Zone Zone
Season GP TOI CF CA CF% CF% rel FF FA FF% FF% rel oiGF oiSH% oiGA oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS%
2018-19 42 818.3 812 715 53.2 3.0 603 549 52.3 2.5 39 8.7 32 92.0 100.7 56.0 44.0
Career 835 14797.2 14487 12795 53.1 1.9 10976 9732 53.0 1.4 682 8.6 651 90.9 99.4 53.1 46.9

Contract Status

Byfuglien is still under contract for two more seasons at $7.6 million per year. The Jets are hoping that he can stay healthy as injuries become a much larger concern as players get older. It’s tough to predict how the next contract for Byfuglien might look because he will be 36 years old by the time the new deal is in place. Although some defensemen are able to have long careers, Byfuglien’s heavy game might take it’s toll on him. The Jets will have to be very careful if they are going to sign Byfuglien to another contract after this one.

Player’s Season in Review

As mentioned above, this was a tough season for Byfuglien. When he was on the ice, his play was excellent. He was able to move the puck up the ice and play at a very high level offensively. He finished the year with .738 points per game, which is his highest mark since his first year in Winnipeg during the 2011-12 season.

Byfuglien was also a monster in the shot metric aspect of the game. He finished the year with an on-ice xGoals% of 51.4% which led the entire Jets roster. He also finished near the top of the team in scoring chances for with 52.44% and an xGF% of 51.74%.

Even though the team struggled defensively, it wasn’t because of Byfuglien. When looking at his defensive shot map, he was able to slow down the dangerous chances from inside the slot. This is likely due to his physical presence in the front of the crease along with his ability to get the puck out of the defensive zone quickly and efficiently.

Not only does Byfuglien make things easier for the goalies, but Byfuglien also continued to make all of his teammates better. As you can see by the WOWY chart, almost every single player gets better when they are on the ice with Byfuglien.

The clear takeaway so far is that Byfuglien had a phenomenal season. That is definitely true, but things started to change once the injuries occurred.

The main problem with Byfuglien’s season was the sheer amount of games he missed. He only played 42 games, which marks the lowest of his entire career. To make matters worse, the team struggled mightily as soon as Byfuglien went down on December 29 against the Wild.

If you want to see how much Winnipeg struggled, check out this chart that shows the team xGoals differential throughout the season. In case you didn’t guess, the blue arrow is the game Byfuglien went down with injury. Both Byfuglian and Ehlers were injured very close together and Winnipeg as a whole took a steep nosedive.

It was really unfortunate because Byfuglien was on track for one of the best seasons of his career before it got derailed by all of the injuries. The hope going forward is that none of these issues will come back over the next few seasons as Byfuglien gets older.

The Playoffs

DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN’S 2019 PLAYOFF STATS
Season Age Tm Lg GP G A PTS +/- PIM S S% TSA ATOI BLK HIT TK GV
2018-19 33 WPG NHL 6 2 6 8 4 4 12 16.7 34 25:41 7 16 3 10
Career 5 yrs NHL 66 21 29 50 -4 74 164 12.8 303 20:24 58 270 37 58

 

DUSTIN BYFUGLIEN’S 2019 PLAYOFF ADVANCED STATS (ALL SITUATIONS)
Cors Cors Cors Cors Fenw Fenw Fenw Fenw PDO PDO PDO PDO PDO Zone Zone
Season GP TOI CF CA CF% CF% rel FF FA FF% FF% rel oiGF oiSH% oiGA oiSV% PDO oZS% dZS%
2018-19 6 154.1 165 132 55.6 10.8 123 103 54.4 9.7 11 13.8 7 91.5 105.2 64.9 35.1
Career 66 1346.4 1428 1057 57.5 8.6 1057 782 57.5 7.7 84 11.6 57 90.0 101.6 68.0 32.0

Although it was a small sample size, Byfuglien turned it on during the playoffs as he led the team in scoring with two goals and six assists. It was even more surprising because he had just returned from an injury and nobody was quite sure how his game was going to be with so much time off. He silenced all the doubters and gave fans hope that he will be able to return to form next season.

What We Said A Year Ago

“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. “

Future Outlook

Byfuglien is still a beast on the ice. At 34 years old, he was on pace for one of the best seasons of his career. The only difficult challenge will be the potential for more injuries as Byfuglien ages. If he can stay healthy, he should be able to keep his status as one of the premier defensemen in the NHL.

FINAL GRADE: A