While in Chicago, Dustin Byfuglien became a very popular player for his postseason heroics as a forward. Now in Atlanta, the former Blackhawk is turning heads for his regular season play as a defenseman.
Byfuglien was one of the many casualties of the salary cap crunch the Chicago Blackhawks were faced with after winning the Stanley Cup. While Byfuglien shined in the playoffs, his regular season play was in consistent and the Blackhawks sold high on the player who came to be known as “Big Buff.”
Once in Atlanta, new head coach Craig Ramsay did something that surprised many around the league. He moved Byfuglien back to a defenseman, the position he originally played as a Blackhawk. If the position change was a surprise, then the results were an even bigger surprise.
Byfuglien leads the NHL in goals (16) and points (41) by a defenseman and is tied for the overall League lead in game-winning goals with 6. Big Buff could be looking at the first All-Star appearance of his career.
“It, obviously, would be nice to make it and go,” Byfuglien told NHL.com. “It’s always exciting, but I just look at it as another thing. I don’t plan on making it.”
Byfuglien’s success shouldn’t come as a criticism of the Blackhawks’ front office or coaching staff.
“The way Joel Quenneville saw him, he saw him as a better contributor as a winger and Joel wasn’t wrong,” Denis Potvin, the Hall of Famer and three-time Norris winner, who now serves as an analyst for Rogers Sportsnet’s Ottawa Senators broadcasts, told NHL.com.
Byfuglien’s contributions as a winger for the Blackhawks can’t be over looked. He scored 11 playoff goals, including 5 game-winners. The Blackhawks also had a very crowded blue line with a future Norris Trophy winner in Duncan Keith, a Canadian Olympian in Brent Seabrook, Brian Campbell and Niklas Hjalmarsson.
While Blackhawks fans would love to have Big Buff in an Indian Head sweater this season, tough decisions had to be made. And one of those was trading away Byfuglien.