Winnipeg Columnist: Byfuglien’s gotta go

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Since being traded by the Chicago Blackhawks and transitioning back to the blueline, Dustin Byfuglien has emerged as one of the league’s most productive defenseman from an offensive perspective.

But is that enough to warrant his $5,200,000 cap hit and leading role on the Winnipeg Jets? Winnipeg Free Press writer Gary Lawless doesn’t seem to think so. He argued that Byfuglien has become a roadblock for the team.

Here’s his case against Byfuglien:

There are all sorts of issues that add up to this result but Byfuglien is a major part of the formula that hasn’t produced.

The 28-year-old Minnesota native played in 43 games this season, scoring eight goals and 20 assists. Solid offensive numbers, but too often the production came at a cost. The Jets were among the worst defensive teams in the league, ranked 25th with 141 goals against.

Byfuglien, as one of the blue-line leaders in ice time and opportunity, wears much of that responsibility. He can take one’s breath away with a rush up ice but he can also produce great angst with his lack of defensive awareness.

Keeping him in such a key position no longer makes sense. It isn’t working.

There’s been talk about Byfuglien changing his game to be more balanced and less of a risk. It hasn’t materialized into a consistent reality.

His fitness issue was supposed to be addressed and resolved. Hasn’t happened. It may have gotten worse.

Lawless argued that Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff should trade Byfuglien, unless Cheveldayoff believes that the blueliner is on the brink of a breakthrough.

There’s bound to be a market for Byfuglien if Winnipeg does decide to shop him. Plenty of teams need a minutes-eating blueliner that can play a key role with the man advantage.

Of course, with that in mind, the Jets might keep Byfuglien off the market this summer.