Dustin Byfuglien met with reporters Friday as the Winnipeg Jets opened their training camp. With legal and weight questions swirling around him, the defenseman looked fit and sounded ready to get on the ice.
Where will he be lining up on opening night?
Last week, Josh Rimer (@joshRimerHockey) of SirusXM radio posted on Twitter that he has heard rumors indicating the Winnipeg Jets are considering moving Dustin Byfuglien to forward this season. Rimer didn’t elaborate on where he heard these reports, but the idea is an interesting one.
Would the Jets be better served with Byfuglien up front?
Byfuglien came into the NHL as a defenseman, but was moved to forward by then Chicago coach Denis Savard.
The move was mostly made due to injuries and lack of forwards, and at first glance, it appeared to be a solid one. Byfuglien responded by becoming a top six forward with the Blackhawks and exploded in their Stanley Cup playoff run with 11 big goals.
With his body size, he seems like a natural fit to be parked in front of the net. All anyone needs to do is ask Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo about how effective a screen Byfuglien is. You might see him break into a cold sweat.
The Jets lack scoring in their top six and could use some more firepower up front. Last season, two of their top three scorers were defenseman: Byfuglien and Tobias Enstrom.
Moving Byfuglien up front makes sense to some degree.
Despite how good it looks on paper, and no matter what birds are chirping to Josh Reimer, the Jets should leave Byfuglien where he is.
While the Jets’ forwards did struggle last year, there are reasons to believe that they can and will improve. Namely, there is a ton of youth in the top six. This may be one of the main reasons the Thrashers were inconsistent last season. Evander Kane and Alexander Burmistrov, on the second line, are both too young to legally drink in the U.S.
They also have a lot of skill.
Kane is on the verge of a break out season, and Burmistrov, only 20, has already shown good playmaking instinct and a defensive maturity. These two players may step up this season and give the Jets a more legitimate top six.
While Dustin Byfuglien may not be the best stay at home defenseman, finding a guy who can score like he can from the blue line is hard to do. Last season, he potted 20 goals and 53 points, which are great numbers for a defenseman. Only three defensemen scored more points than Byfuglien did last season. His skill set is a rarity among defensive players. Leaving him at defense gives the Jets an added weapon from back there and a potentially potent power play.
It is also worth pointing out that Byfuglien’s most productive season as a pro was last year, when he played defense exclusively. Last season, he hit career marks in goals, assists and points.
As the Jets move through this preseason, it makes no sense to weaken their defense by moving Byfuglien to forward.