Dustin Byfuglien is a mountain of a man, and regularly roughs up opponents as they cross the blue line into his zone. At least, he used to. Byfuglien has seemed, from my perspective, to really lose some of his competitive edge recently.
When “Big Buff” arrived in Winnipeg with the Jets, he was a presence that constantly commanded respect. His use of his physically dominating stature and solid puck handling skills was impressive and exciting. In short, he was really fun to watch, and he looked like he was having a ton of fun himself.
As of late, Byfuglien seems uninspired and tired. He doesn’t play the body like he used to, nor does he take that extra stride to get his body in front of a puck, opting instead to take a wild swipe at a puck while it’s in the air, only to miss and have to play “chase the forward” all the way to his goaltender. This has lead to a number of scoring chances for the opposition (often realized) or forced the giant defenseman to commit infractions ending in him sitting in the box for 2 minutes.
Remember the good ol’ days when #33 would knock bodies all over the place?
Where is that Byfuglien? Where is that passion? That spark?
It was not only likely to find his name on the “top 10 hits of the year” list, but it’s expected.
So here’s the big question; what changed?
What made the beast stop eating people alive? What made him start taking lazy baseball-style swings at the puck? What made him look like he’s “just at work” and not really enjoying himself?
I do not have the answer for you, unfortunately. What I do have is more questions. Is it Winnipeg? Does the man simply need a change? Either way, he needs to find a way to get back to playing a game, get away from whatever it is that is keeping the smile off his face, and get the basics under control. It’s either that or start looking for a trade to get that jump back in his step.
What made the beast stop eating people alive?
Winnipeggers are super forgiving fans, as we’ve seen with Pavelec, Maurice, and now Byfuglien. That well of patience is not infinite, however, and the anchor at the back can’t be the anchor that keeps the Jets from progressing.
The Jets defeated the Penguins tonight by a wide margin, but despite his 21:40 time-on-ice and his 1 assist Byfuglien really was kind of invisible for most of that game.
Here’s hoping something shakes Byfuglien’s tree to get him back to right, and not just because Winnipeg needs him. He deserves better for and from himself.
Enjoy 10 minutes of Buff’s biggest hits. (Note: a number of them were penalties, but I didn’t compile the video.)