Dustin Byfuglien went pointless with a minus-3 rating in a 6-5 loss to Pittsburgh on Sunday.
One day later, Claude Noel acknowledged that Big Buff was struggling.
“Dustin knows where he’s at with his game,” the Winnipeg head coach said, per the Jets’ Twitter feed. “We need him to be better. He’s trying. He’s not happy.”
The last few weeks have not been a happy time for Byfuglien.
While the big-bodied defenseman keeps piling up points — 32 in 45 games, tied for fourth in the NHL among d-men — his defensive play has been erratic and he admitted to playing “too fast” recently. Byfuglien has a team-worst minus-14 rating this season (next worst is Olli Jokinen, at minus-7) and a team-high 55 giveaways (next closest is Jacob Trouba, with 31).
Byfuglien was also recently passed over for the U.S. Olympic team, which including a less-than-stellar review from members of the selection committee. From ESPN:
Byfuglien continues to be a loose cannon even in theory.
“We don’t yet know who the best players are,” Poile says. “Can we trust Byfuglien to play in this tournament?”
If there are injuries, is he the kind of guy who could move up and play in the top six?
“Can we trust him?” Poile wonders aloud.
Or do they need a more consistent player?
Tallon, for one, doesn’t think they need both Yandle and Byfuglien.
“You know I’m not a big Byfuglien guy,” Burke notes. But he seems to have committed himself to being in better shape and improving his game. “And no one can pound the puck like him,” he adds.
The group’s Man On The Prairie, Don Waddell, warns that early on Byfuglien has struggled.
Yes, he’s an offensive presence but, “If he’s going to have to play minutes defensively, boy, right now he’s a high-risk guy,” Waddell says.
Don’t be surprised if this leads to another round of Byfuglien trade rumors. The 28-year-old is in the third of a five-year, $26 million deal ($5.2 million cap hit) and has a modified no-trade clause, but could be made available given the Jets have a lot of money already invested in the likes of Zach Bogosian and Tobias Enstrom, and appearing to have a blossoming star on their hands in Trouba.