Dustin Byfuglien was another Thrashers player to post career-highs in goals (20), assists (33) and points (53). He led all NHL defensemen in goals and was fourth in points. Byfuglien, who won the Stanley Cup in Chicago last season, made the All-Star team after the much-discussed position change. He was named an alternate captain and rewarded with a five-year, $26 million contract in February.
In the second of a series of interviews with Thrashers players following the 2010-11 season, here is some of what Byfuglien had to say about his leadership role, his summer conditioning plans and the disappointment of not making the playoffs.
Q. Disappointed you didn’t make the playoffs, but what are your overall impressions of the season? Is it what you expected?
A. There were a lot of ups and downs. I had, personally, a good year. I figured out that I can be a leader around here. I’m going to be around here awhile now. We have a lot of potential. The year didn’t end on a good note but we can take a lot of good things out of the season.
Q. You made the all-star team as a defenseman and got a big contract for your play. Do you consider that position your career path?
A. Yes, as of right now I see that being the career path. I’m honored to be able to get a contract like that and have the team lock me up for that long. With them giving me a leadership role this year and really taking on a lot of things I was really iffy on coming into the season – like this will be a little different. You know what? I had a lot of fun. I went out there and met a lot of good guys and a lot of young kids that will be fun playing with in the future.
Q. Both Craig Ramsay and Rick Dudley said a big part of this team moving forward is to come to training camp in top condition. What will your summer be like with that in mind?
A. I guess a little less boat time and more working out, committing myself to being the best and trying to be on top. They have given me a reason to try to be the top player I can be. Now it’s up to me to run with it.
Q. Great success the first half of the year, both team and individually. The second half dropped off. Was there a reason? Were teams playing you differently?
A. I guess they played a little big tighter. I think when everything was a struggle, everyone struggled together. It’s hard to pinpoint what caused it. The whole team just went down.
Q. After being at the pinnacle last year and now an early summer, how do to process that? Do you get angry?
A. It’s disappointing. It’s definitely not time to be starting a summer. The fun should actually be starting right now. Realistically, the fun is in the playoffs. That’s what means something. Each season means a lot to make the playoffs. Once you make the playoffs, anything can happen. … It’s something that I know once guys get a taste of, they are never going to want to be out of. It’s something that feels good and is fun to be a part of.
The series will continue over the next couple of weeks. Coming Monday, Zach Bogosian.