Atlanta Thrashers' Dustin Byfuglien Getting Serious Attention for Norris Trophy

Randy HoltContributor IJanuary 4, 2011

MONTREAL, CANADA - JANUARY 2:  Dustin Byfuglien #33 of the Atlanta Thrashers skates with the puck while being chased by Scott Gomez #11 of the Montreal Canadiens during the NHL game at the Bell Centre on January 2, 2011 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Thrashers defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

While the always dependable Nicklas Lidstrom is enjoying another solid year in his Hall-of-Fame career, there is one defenseman down south that very few, if any, would be in the hunt for the Norris Trophy.

Dustin Byfuglien.

Byfuglien's name is one that has not only earned attention for the way that it's spelled, but the way the man has been playing with the Atlanta Thrashers this season.

Byfuglien was a playoff hero on more than one occasion for the Chicago Blackhawks last season. He made life difficult for Roberto Luongo in the second round, scored an overtime winner in the Western Conference semis and dropped Chris Pronger like a bad habit in the Finals, which is enough to make most hockey fans giddy.

Nearly all of Byfuglien's exploits in last year's postseason took place while Buff was skating the forward lines with Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

He spent very little time at defenseman, though it is the position he was in when he broke into the league.

The big man was a casualty of the salary cap's assault on the Chicago Blackhawks in the summer of 2010. Four players, including current Thrasher captain Andrew Ladd, made their way down to Atlanta as part of Chicago's emergency salary dump.

One of the first orders of business for the Thrashers brass was to move Byfuglien back to his natural spot on the blue line.

Many were unsure how Byfuglien would perform for Atlanta in general, let alone on the blue line. What they have gotten this season is sure to have surpassed even the most optimistic of expectations.

Byfuglien has adjusted to his new spot to the tune of 41 points on the season. That total leads all defenseman, besting Lidstrom by four points. That point total is already a career high for the man they call Big Buff, who has already eclipsed his '07-'08 career mark of 36.

His 16 goals from the blue line lead all d-men, with his 25 assists trailing just Lidstrom, Pittsburgh's Kris Letang and Thrasher teammate Tobias Enstrom.

Perhaps the most surprising, or least if you watched him in the postseason last year, is his game-winning goal total. Byfuglien's six game-winners are tied for best in the league, with Steven Stamkos—not bad company.

While it's difficult to believe Byfuglien would be putting up these types of numbers back in Chicago, he appears to be in a great situation with the Thrashers. He's putting up points on a near nightly basis, is wearing an "A" and talks of a contract extension with Atlanta have begun to emerge.

While names like Lidstrom and Letang will get the recognition, there's no denying what Byfuglien has done.

If he stays on this pace, it will be tough to keep him out of the talk as a favorite for the Norris Trophy come next summer.