Frozen Pool Forensics: Dustin Byfuglien

by Chris Liggio on April 27, 2018

Greatest trade in some time; That’s what I’ll have to say about my acquisition of Dustin Byfuglien in late January whilst his value was at its lowest. At the tail end of his buy low window, I shipped off Bo Horvat (it’s a face-off league) and Radko Gudas for the Manitoba policeman. Boy did it ever pay dividends I feel. A key contributor for my title squad, Byfuglien performed admirably post All-Star break albeit lacking goals overall.

Three of those eight goals came in his last seven games, so Byfuglien really came through when it mattered most in that department. This, alongside his elite category coverage all season, and you had yourself a dominant force once again. The low goals show everyone’s admiration for them as he was chastised for the lack of production after 13 or more in the prior four campaigns. Those single digit goals erase his fourth straight season north of 110 PIM, 100 hits and 190 shots. Yes those last two are low compared to the prior three seasons but let’s not nitpick. Though the decline offensively could be here, him rebounding is every bit as possible on a loaded Jets squad as the top offensive option from the blue line.

The last thirty days of play for fantasy purposes saw Byfuglien produce the said three goals, five assists, 22 PIM, 5 PPP, 52 shots, and 20 hits while seeing just under 26 minutes a night in 14 games. That is workhorse production across the spread that we have come to expect from the hulking defender. Though the team in which I acquired him on was performing well prior, there was an unmistakable uptick in category domination after the transaction. Never beforehand would I run away with PIM, it was always close for example. Yet after the fact, the team seemingly always ran the gauntlet in that category. The championship final saw my squad post 78 PIM to my opponent’s 38 with Byfuglien responsible for 14. Shots I ran away, with 354 to his 290. Byfuglien was second to Vincent Trocheck (30) with 26. Time on ice he did not touch Erik Karlsson’s average half hour played over six games but I will certainly take the 23 and a half minutes per night Byfuglien produced.

On a team loaded offensively like the Winnipeg Jets, there should be no reason for Byfuglien to not cross the 40-point plateau in 2018-19 despite advancing age. With a bevy of snipers to feed in Patrik Laine, Nikolaj Ehlers, and Kyle Connor, there should be no issue racking up the assists. Byfuglien posted a career low shooting percentage this season (4.1), so even a slight increase of one percent would put him back into double digit goal territory at the end of a regular season. One expects he’s still anchoring a stacked primary power play unit in 2018-19 with no other defenseman on the team challenging his abilities.

Byfuglien was an imposing force in Round 1 against the Minnesota Wild, serving up some devastating checks on the likes of Mikko Koivu and Joel Erikkson Ek. Watch Koivu’s soul exit his body below:

 

 

The intimidation factor he establishes for Winnipeg alongside his booming shot and great skating ability makes him a unique piece of the puzzle not many teams possess. Alongside his physicality he mirrored it offensively posting five assists in five games played. Byfuglien was 25 years old the last time he won a Cup in Chicago, and now at 33 years of age he knows an end is in sight at some point. On a team with all the pieces necessary he’s seemingly giving it his all to taste championship victory once again. Going into next season his low goal scoring should not damper his worth in the eye of you the beholder. Expect some regression to the mean as far as goal scoring and expect the excellent peripheral production as is customary with Byfuglien.

Even this season which saw him down in goals, hits and shots, he was still far and away a top-notch option in multi-category leagues. Byfuglien usually comes at a higher draft price in multi-cat settings because of his well-rounded contributions but after posting only eight goals, it would not be out of question to see him fall down the board. Points-only leagues he will more than likely be a bargain pick outside Round 5 with 50-point potential. Go into 2018-19 with a 40-point floor in mind and take on the big man expecting a slight rebound offensively most notably in goals.