Big Dustin Byfuglien has been a fixture in trade rumours the last few years, and a favoured whipping boy of the Winnipeg press. I’ve said before that he’d be a fantastic fit on the Oilers’ blue line, but the people who run the team don’t spend a lot of time asking me for my view of Edmonton’s defence corps.
But I bet they talk to new defensive coach Craig Ramsay about it, and few NHL coaches could speak as authoritatively about Byfuglien’s utility on the back end.
Along with virtually half the Blackhawks, Byfuglien was dumped to Atlanta in the summer of 2010 as Chicago struggled to get itself under the NHL salary cap.
Craig Ramsay was the new head coach of the Thrashers at that time, and he had an interesting plan for the right wing.
RT @ajcthrashers: Craig Ramsay confirmed to me that Dustin Byfuglien will come to camp as defenseman.
— TEAM Radio (@TEAM1040) September 10, 2010
The results were everything anybody could have hoped for, as Byfuglien logged more than 19 minutes per night at even strength on the Atlanta blue line, putting him comfortably in the top-20 of NHL defencemen in minutes played. He was effective, too, as a quick look at the Norris Trophy voting from that season confirms:
Here & Now
The end of season quotes on Byfuglien’s future were pretty interesting.
Dustin Byfuglien on whether he will be staying at forward:
I hope not. It’s been done before so it wasn’t the end of the world. I just had to go do my job and that’s it. Yeah, I always prefer defence first, but whatever they tell me to do, I’ll just go do.
Head coach Paul Maurice on whether Dustin Byfuglien will be staying at forward:
Dustin will be starting at forward.
Byfuglien would instantly be the best defenceman in the Oilers’ system.
He’d add a heavy shot at the right point of the power play, something Edmonton has lacked for a while now. He’d add some size on the back end (6’5”, 265 pounds) and as his 213 hits this season show he isn’t afraid to use it. He’s 29 years old and under contract for two more years.
But the biggest point is the first one: Byfuglien would instantly be the best defenceman in the Oilers’ system.