Dustin Byfuglien seems to be a polarizing figure here at the Wilderness. Some of you don't much care for him (or his compulsive eating habits) and then some of you seem to like the style of play he brings to the ice. Today we're going to take a look at just what his skill-set could bring to the Wild, and I'll tell you why he would be a nice pickup for your favorite squad.
Dustin Byfuglien is a rare breed indeed. First of all, he is one of us. Born in Minneapolis, which is not so rare as kids are born here all the time. He moved with his mother to Roseau at an early age where the love of hockey is indoctrinated into the youth. Roseau, for those of you who don't know your Minnesota geography, is a tiny little town in the furthest northern reaches of the state. Despite it's small town nature, they play some big time hockey up there.
To make Big Buff the diamond in the rough, he was originally drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks, in the 8th round of the 2003 draft. That year, the NHL powers that be felt he was the 245th best prospect in the draft. Of course the 2003 draft produced several top-tier players, a couple of them even play for the Wild currently and one of them will be signing a contract here this summer (right?).
Byfuglien has played in 528 career NHL games, not too shabby for an 8th rounder. In those 528 games he has tallied 115 goals and 184 assists for 299 points. In 2010, he even helped the Chicago Blackhawks win their first Stanley Cup in almost 50 years. As a thank you for helping the Hawks over the hump, they promptly traded Byfuglien to the hockey hot-bed of Atlanta, where he played 1 season with the Thrashers before the team pulled up stakes and moved north to The Wall.
Where does he fit?
I'm not going to lie, Byfuglien is a big guy. You cannot expect to just stuff him in your overhead compartment and hope all goes well. Standing at 6'5" and weighing in at 265 lbs, this guy would be a force for the Wild on the blue line. Now I am aware the Jets have tried the Brent Burns experiment (another 2003 draft pick) with Buff and given him a go a forward, but for our purposes he will remain on the blue line.
With current face-puncher Clayton Stoner's contract expiring soon, as well as Elk Rivers finest product Nate Prosser set to become a free agent, the Wild will be in need of some help back on defense. We do have some kids coming up the pipeline, but with just 2 years left on Byfuglien's contract and a cap hit of 5.25 million a year he would be a giant upgrade over Stoner and Prosser and would give the kids some time to learn the ropes south on interstate 35 and take the pressure off for a couple years.
Stats provided by extraskater.com
When you compare Buff to the rest of the defensive core still under contract with the Wild, he slots right in. Looking over his fancy numbers from last season, you'll notice one area in particular in which he is miles ahead of the rest. Byfuglien likes to shoot the puck and he likes to score goals. It would seem as if he would actually enjoy the Wild fans screaming at him to shoot the puck during games. Now perhaps those numbers are a bit inflated with the experiment of sticking the big guy up front, but this has also been a staple of his defensive game as well.
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Byfuglien and his big right handed shot next to Jonas Brodin could be an intriguing combo, and help to keep Brodin from eating the boards so much. Also, just for laughs we could stick him out there with Jared Spurgeon, sure they are both right handed shots, but the size difference on the ice would be a little silly at the very least. Of course if you wanted to continue the experiment of having him play on the wing, his size would be amazing on the forecheck and to have a body like that on the 3rd or 4th line, lining up against a top line could give the opposition headaches.
Byguglien is not a terrible option to inquire about. His cap hit is a little larger, but with just a couple years remaining he wouldn't be a drain for very long before we would be presented with the opportunity to re-sign him or allow him to go off into the open market. He could be a great option as a bridge player while we allow more time for the likes of Mathew Dumba and Gustav Olofsson to mature down in Iowa.