Dustin Byfuglien is a forward who won a cup with the Chicago Blackhawks. He now plays defense for the Winnipeg Jets. The craziest part about all of this? He is really good at both. Serving time on the blue-line and the wing makes Byfuglien one of the most unique and odd ball players in hockey. The fact he does it weighing it at 260lbs. well, that's just absurd.
Now 30 years old, Byfuglien has been playing in the NHL since 2005-06. Breaking in on defense with the Chicago Blackhawks and was moved to the wing in 2007-08, later being a big contributor in winning a Stanley Cup with them in 2009-10. He scored 16 points in 22 games in the playoffs, helping the Blackhawks win their first of three Stanley Cups in the last six years. Due to salary cap issues and cheaper players coming through the pipe line, Byfuglien got the squeeze and later landed in Atlanta. The Atlanta Thrashers moved to Winnipeg the year after he came aboard. Rick Dudley, then GM of the Thrashers, gave Dustin his choice of where to play which found him on the blue-line.
Cut to January 2014, the Winnipeg Jets have lost four in a row. Coach at the time, Claude Noel, moved "Big Buff" up to the wing looking for a shake-up. That was the first time Byfuglien saw his ice-time drop below 20 minutes all season. The Jets lost that game and a shuffle on the bench saw Paul Maurice take the reigns behind the bench. Coming aboard he decided to keep Buff on the wing. The next season in training camp, Maurice left Dustin as a forward and moved him around on special teams. Defenseman in four on four situations, running the point on the power-play, the point was to have him on the ice as much as possible. In December of the same year, the Jets blue-line was diminished by injuries, Byfgulien was called back to play defense. When asked why he loved playing defense he simply answered, "I control the game, it's my playground".
Seeing a spike in ice-time to the high 20's. He quickly became a dominant defenseman. After just 15 games, he was selected to the All-Star game as a blue-liner. In 26 games as a forward, he totaled five goals and six assists. In 22 games as a defender he collected seven goals and 13 assists. Andrew Ladd, the Jets captain and former Chicago teammate, said Byfuglien is a "game breaker" and that he is "extraordinary". These are just two of the many ways to compliment the way he plays the game.
This year he has eight points in 14 games but brings so much more to the game. He has bought into the defense first system but has an offensive upside matched by few. He is a terrific skater and does it all while weighing 260lbs. He can effortlessly knock you off the puck or shield you from getting to a loose one in the corner. With a bomb of a shot he is deadly from the point but also has a slick wrist shot that makes goalies wiry.
Last night against the Ottawa Senators he averaged four more minutes of ice time than any other Winnipeg player. He lead the Jets in shots, seven, and hits, five, in a game that went through three on three overtime to the shootout. He has been a dominant force all year, and continues to show he is someone to watch when he steps on the ice. He forces his will on other players and can hit like a dump truck. He is so good at being big he really is the "hockey gods" gift to the NHL.