When the Chicago Blackhawks received a nice haul from the Atlanta Thrashers in a deal that featured Dustin Byfuglien, many people thought GM Rick Dudley gave up too much. Upon hearing that Dudley, coach Craig Ramsay and the jumbo-sized skater all agreed with the idea to move him back to his original position on defense, many people jeered.
(I was in that group to some extent, as I felt that the Thrashers’ greatest strength was their offensive ability on defense before adding Byfuglien.)
Well, it’s too early to officially say that Byfuglien and the Thrashers will make everyone eat some puck-flavored crow, but the experiment is passing with flying colors so far. Byfuglien’s highest moment as a Thrasher might have come tonight, as he scored a game-winning overtime goal and also produced an assist to help his team beat the struggling Buffalo Sabres.
Whether you judge him as a defenseman with a hellacious slapper or a gigantic winger whose big body can block the vision of even the largest goalies, he’s been outstanding in 2010-11. Byfuglien scored four goals and five assists for nine points in 10 games this season, with the only real blemish being his -4 rating.
It’s no accident that he’s producing at a higher level, either, as the skilled player is averaging far and away the most ice time of his six-year career, with more than 21 minutes per game. (He never averaged more than a little above 17 minutes per game in Chicago).
Now, one of the biggest critiques of Byfuglien’s game was that the enormous physical force would take a few nights off here and there, so it’s not safe to assume that he’ll maintain anything close to his near point-per-game pace during the entire year. Still, with that big boost of confidence he received from being frequently dominant during the 2010 playoffs, more ice time than ever and the financial incentive of a contract year, this could be a … well, Byfuglien-sized season for the young hybrid player.
It just goes to show you that the people paid to put together teams might know better than the rest of us every now and then.
Get set for the Heritage Classic with hot dog facts and more
The Winnipeg Jets host the Edmonton Oilers at the 2016 Heritage Classic at Investors Group Field this afternoon. You can watch it on NHL Network, Sportsnet, TVA Sports 2 or NHL.tv at 3 p.m. ET.
With that in mind, let’s get prepped with super-important stats about unhealthy food, interesting photos and fun facts.
Want to get an in-depth look at the rivalry between the Jets and the Oilers? NHL.com and Sportsnet both have some great retrospectives.
The CBC notes that there was rain ending in the morning but it’s expected to be cloudy. Overall, sounds like a nice climate for an outdoor hockey game. NHL.com’s Nick Cotsonika wonders if the sun’s glare might cause some issues.
The Arizona Coyotes received (mostly) good news on Sunday: Mike Smith‘s injury isn’t believed to be “severe,” even if he’s considered week-to-week, according to reporters including TSN’s Darren Dreger.
While Louis Domingue and Justin Peters isn’t the sort of goalie duo that will make shooters think twice about firing the puck, they’re both at least fairly experienced netminders.
(Considering Smith’s struggles with injuries and inconsistency, it’s not surprising that Arizona invested in a little insurance in Peters.)
Domingue is slated to start in net for the Coyotes against the New York Rangers on Sunday. It’s been a bumpy start for him so far, but Arizona has at least a theoretical advantage in that the Rangers played on Saturday.
As far as when Smith will be back? Well here’s a slight idea.
Dave Tippett does not think Mike Smith will be ready for home game vs. Colorado on Oct. 29, but he is not far from getting back on the ice.
Chances are, plenty of hockey fans – and maybe some members of the Colorado Avalanche – were uttering that question after Saturday night.
Well, we know this about Shane Harper: he scored his first two NHL goals at age 27, helping the Florida Panthers beat the Colorado Avalanche 5-2.
You can watch both of Harper’s goals in the recap video:
Harper also drew enough ire from the Avalanche to get into a bit of a skirmish following a hit.
So, who is Shane Harper?
For one thing, he’s from Valencia, California and did not go drafted.
His best junior season came in 2009-10, when he scored 42 goals and 80 points for the Everett Silvertips. He’s become quite the seasoned AHL veteran since then, and while his numbers won’t wow you, he did do enough in 2014-15 to maybe turn a head or two. Harper scored 32 goals and 50 points for the Chicago Wolves that season.
You can tell his teammates were happy for him – gentle ribbing and all – when the media asked about his career milestone: