Would the Jets be better off with Byfuglien on defense?

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When it comes to Winnipeg Jets defenseman/forward/science experiment on ice Dustin Byfuglien, it’s easy to overlook the positives and linger on negative headlines about his weight and defensive acumen.

Let there be no doubt about it, though: there are few (if any) players quite like Byfuglien. Erik Karlsson is the only defenseman who has topped Byfuglien’s 190 points since Big Buff was traded to then-Atlanta before the 2010-11 season.

Of course, it’s probably not accurate to call him a defenseman … at least not now. The question is: should Jets head coach Paul Maurice move him back to the blueline, though?

It’s a question that’s probably a little more complicated than both sides of the argument might think.

Why they might want to move him back to D

Arctic Ice Hockey generated some compelling and pretty stark comparisons between “Byfuglien the forward” and “Byfuglien the defenseman.” You don’t need to squint your eyes to see the dramatic statistical differences between the 29-year-old’s superior work from the blueline vs. his time as one of the team’s forwards. If nothing else, that same site made a reasonable argument that “Buffy the Hamburger Slayer” might not have been used in the most ideal forward combinations.

Ultimately, it’s unclear if Byfuglien can be effective as a forward, while he’s been an All-Star as a defenseman. Even if you have doubts about his positioning/”hockey IQ,” there’s a growing school of thought that the best defense is to be on offense more often … and Byfuglien (the defenseman) might just be a poster child for that movement.

Beyond that thought, there’s also a rather simple extra argument in favor of moving him back to D: he’d probably log more ice time. That’s really Maurice’s call to make, but defensemen generally find themselves getting more reps and it’s best to have your superior players on the ice more often than not …

Forward-thinking

  • The Jets might simply believe that he’s more of an upgrade over the forward he’s moving down the lineup than the defenseman he’d shuffle around. With some promising pieces like Jacob Trouba emerging, it’s not unreasonable to make such an argument.
  • As he gets older, questions about his mobility will only increase. Risk-averse coaches will likely feel more comfortable with Byfuglien receiving fewer responsibilities.
  • Moving a player like Byfuglien from the crease is a foreboding task, and while he can still get into position to screen goalies as a “rover,” it’s a more reasonable proposition as a traditional forward.

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In the interest of avoiding poll fatigue, let’s hash this out in the comments. Which move is in Winnipeg’s best interest: keeping Byfuglien at forward or on defense? Or should Maurice just throw a dart before each game? So many options …

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Zetterberg on pace to play 1,000th game in Joe Louis Arena farewell

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Barring injury, Red Wings captain Henrik Zetterberg will get the opportunity to make his 1,000th NHL game even more special.

Detroit head coach Jeff Blashill confirmed today that Zetterberg will play tonight and tomorrow in Carolina, putting the 36-year-old on pace to play his 1,000th game on Apr. 9, the date of the final Wings game at Joe Louis Arena.

The Wings, who will miss the playoffs for the first time since 1990, have eight games left in their regular season. They host New Jersey on Apr. 9.

Tonight’s game was originally scheduled for Dec. 19, but had to be postponed due to poor ice conditions at PNC Arena.

Isles sign Northeastern captain Stevens

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John Stevens, who just wrapped a four-year career at Northeastern University, has signed a two-year, entry-level deal with the Islanders, the club announced on Monday.

Stevens, 22, went undrafted but emerged as a valuable player for the Huskies, culminating with a senior season in which he served as captain and averaged better than a point per game (28 in 25 contests).

Stevens is the son of longtime L.A. Kings associate coach John Stevens, who formerly served as the bench boss in Philly.

A third member 0f the Stevens clan, Nolan, also played this season at Northeastern — his junior campaign — and was taken by St. Louis in the fifth round of last year’s draft.

McElhinney to start for Leafs tomorrow

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Curtis McElhinney will start in goal for the Maple Leafs when they host Florida tomorrow.

Which means Toronto’s regular starter, Frederik Andersen, will not.

Andersen, hurt Saturday in Buffalo, only lasted 20 minutes of practice this morning. The Toronto Star, citing a Leafs source, is reporting that Andersen “took a blow to his jaw from a player in Saturday’s 5-2 loss to the Sabres.”

McElhinney is 4-5-0 with a .919 save percentage in 10 appearances for the Leafs this season. He told reporters that tomorrow will be the biggest start of his NHL career.

It remains to be seen who will back up McElhinney against the Panthers. The Leafs have recalled goalie Garret Sparks from the AHL on an emergency basis. All three netminders were on the ice today.

Update:

Expect Sparks to be the back-up tomorrow.

Toronto has a three-point playoff cushion, with eight games remaining.

The Leafs also recalled forward Kasperi Kapanen, the 22nd overall draft pick in 2014. Kapanen, 20, has 18 goals and 25 assists in 43 games for the Marlies this season. He’s expected to replace Ben Smith on the fourth line, alongside Brian Boyle and Matt Martin.

Habs sign d-man Mete, who ‘does everything’ for junior team

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Victor Mete, Montreal’s fourth-round pick at last year’s draft, has signed his three-year, entry-level deal, the club announced on Monday.

Mete, 18, is in his third year with OHL powerhouse London, and finished this season with 15 goals and 44 points in 50 games. He’s developed a reputation as a terrific skater, and often plays alongside fellow Knights d-man Olli Juolevi, who the Canucks took fifth overall at last year’s draft.

London assistant coach Dylan Hunter had high praise for Mete this season.

“When it comes to little nuances of his game, stick on puck, knowing when to make a play and when there isn’t a play to just get it out, he’s one of the best there is right now,” Hunter said, per the London Free Press.

“He does everything for us.”

Mete has one year of junior eligibility remaining, so it’s likely he’ll be back in London next season. At 5-foot-10 and just 180 pounds, he’s undersized and could use another year of development before turning pro.