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NHL Winnipeg Jets

Rant Sports Top 100 Active NHL Players: No. 77 – Dustin Byfuglien

Brace Hemmelgarn-US PRESSWIRE

Dustin Byfuglien truly is an enigma. As popular a name as he has been throughout his career, there are still plenty of questions that face him. Is he a forward or a defenseman? Is he actually motivated? Is he worth that large contract that he signed almost two years ago?

Byfuglien became a fan favorite during his time with the Chicago Blackhawks, once everyone stopped pronouncing his name phonetically. He had a couple of brief appearances with the Hawks before he appeared in 67 games in ’07-’08. It was the 2009-10 season, though, that we saw Byfuglien truly break out.

The 2009-10 season was obviously a landmark season for the Blackhawks organization as a whole, with Byfuglien serving as a key. His regular season wasn’t anything to write home about, though. He had just 34 points on the year. His postseason performance was quite a different story.

Buff had a fantastic playoff run as the Hawks won their first title since 1949. He had 16 points in 22 games, and that’s without scoring any points in the opening round. He was a big, versatile body in the lineup and contributed five game-winning goals to the cause, including three in the Western Conference Finals against the San Jose Sharks.

The following summer, Byfuglien was part of the salary cap-forced exodus and sent to the Atlanta Thrashers, who have since become the re-branded Winnipeg Jets. He was moved back to the blue line, where he originally began his career in Chicago (and saw some time during that playoff run).

The results to this point have been pretty solid. He has 106 points in two years with the Jets, which is among the best as far as blue liners are concerned. But that doesn’t dismiss the questions surrounding him.

One is whether or not the Jets would be better served to move Buff up back to forward. It’s not a widely asked question, but I have to think he could be very effective up top for Winnipeg. That’s if he’s motivated of course, which is the other (literally) big question surrounding him.

This summer, we’ve seen multiple pictures of the ballooning Byfuglien. He’s packed on a ton of weight and is easily over 300 pounds at this point. We’ve seen him gain and lose weight quickly before, but this has to be a point of concern for the Jets. Even at his height, three bills isn’t really showing the best work in his conditioning.

Byfuglien has always been a guy with all the tools to succeed. He has great size and skill that rarely comes along with a 6’4″, 250 lb frame. His motivation has always been a question, though, going back to his early days with the Blackhawks.

Nonetheless, he’s a core player for this Jets team and will continue to be their top defenseman moving forward. I look forward to seeing what he’d do in a postseason with them, when the stakes are high. Of course, Winnipeg has to get there first.