Saturday, 20 September 2014

Motivated, But...

Dustin Byfuglien has a Stanley Cup ring. He was a vital part of the Chicago Blackhawks team that lifted the curse on the franchise by winning the Stanley Cup in 2010. Byfuglien, as a forward, terrorized goaltenders in front of the net, making a name for himself as the kid who couldn't be moved from the crease. The key in all this was that Byfuglien was an effective forward for the Blackhawks who did a job that others wouldn't: front of the net and take some abuse. It hasn't been that way since he got his ring.

Byfuglien was out at the first Winnipeg Jets Fan Fest yesterday, and he was surrounded by credentialed media all day. He seemed to be in a jovial mood, and that was good for all those looking for quotes from the big forward. The problem is that you weren't sure the answers you were getting were Big Buff being serious or having some fun with the guys who write about him.

"Defence is so much fun though, it's tough," Byfuglien said to the Winnipeg Sun's Ken Wiebe. "I've got a job to do and I'm just here to go work and do what I do."

There are lots of exceptional forwards who drop back to play defence on the power-play. Evgeni Malkin is probably the most prolific forward to do so, and he seems to enjoy it. Dustin Byfuglien is also a forward - at least by Paul Maurice's word - but will play the blue line on the power-play as well.

"I think it's more fun when he says he'd rather play defence, isn't it?" Maurice said, smiling. "This is one of the great personalities in the game right now. I hope he's still firing that out. It wouldn't be Buff. But he's playing forward."

Byfuglien, in his defence, did sound as if he was joking, and I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. Again, he tossed in the joke when Wiebe asked him about his expectations for this season.

"Um, be back on defence anytime, right away," Byfuglien stated, a sheepish grin on his face. "No, just have a good start and do what I do and bring to the table what I usually do. Provide a little bit of everything. Focus on defence first and the offence will come."

I think that Byfuglien could be due for a big season based on his size and skill, but his endurance and ability to stay in shape will go a long way in determining how this season goes for the big man. As a forward, he's rarely knocked off the puck when he has it, and he often carries a couple of players with him who are trying to knock the puck away. On the power-play, there's no denying that Byfuglien is the cannon on the blue line. He has a very unique skill set, and he needs to use these tools to make himself, his linemates, and his team better.

Dustin Byfuglien came into camp with a positive attitude. He looks like he's in pretty decent shape. While he's not ripped, he seems to be lighter than in previous season, but this is something we saw last year which slowly regressed to seeing Buff be heavier and less productive. This is something the Jets will have to stay on top of this year because it seems like Dustin Byfuglien has arrived in Winnipeg with the right attitude, even if he is still joking about being a defenceman.

As they say, in any joke, there is a shred of truth. Byfuglien can be an awesome defenceman, but he'll only be expected to do so when they Jets have a man-advantage. And he should excel there.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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