One of the more interesting things that came from Chris Vivlamore’s recent chat with Rick Dudley was the suggestion that Dustin Byfuglien could wind up playing defense.
“It’s a position that he likes to play”, Dudley told Vivlamore. “It’s a position that I thought he was well on his way to being a top, top defenseman in Chicago”.
Continuing the Thrashers GM added, “We moved him to forward because we had no size up front. Obviously, he proved to be a very effective forward but that doesn’t mean he’s not an effective defenseman. Ultimately, if [coach] Craig [Ramsay] says he doesn’t want to play him at defense, it’s unlikely he’ll play on defense. Truthfully, I want to see [him switch]. He can score. He can score 15 goals as a defenseman. He’s got one of the hardest shots in the game”.
The 6’-4” 257 lb Byfuglien was the Blackhawks 245th pick back in the 2003 draft.
Now I must confess, the discussion of such a move is puzzling given the fact that Byfuglien’s size and abilities are just what this team needs in front of opposing goalies. And, if he does take up a spot on the defensive corps that means another player will be denied one. That person most likely would be Arturs Kulda, whom I am really looking forward to seeing on the team this season.
So if Duds gets his wish, the Thrashers D-men would consist of Hainsey, Enstrom, Oduya, Bogosian, Sopel and Buff in back with Valabik left to sample the press box buffet. This is barring any further trades/signings, of course.
What are your thoughts on moving Byfuglien to defense?
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But then let’s also consider the forward lines. The way I see things, Antropov, Peverley, Kane, Little and Bergfors, (when signed), make up five of your top-six forwards. Boulton and Thorburn are fourth liners, possibly centered by Patrice Cormier, and Slater could skate between Eager and Ladd for line three. Then add in, say, Rissmiller as a healthy scratch. But there’s still that one open RW spot on the first or second line to round out the lineup.
This is where Spencer Machacek could possibly find his opening to crack the roster. Dudley has made it clear he wants to make sure there are some spots available for prospects to compete for. So if Buff finds his way onto the defensive corps then that creates an opening for Machacek to fill.
Again, this assumes a trade or signing isn’t in the offing.
Speaking of which, keep in mind we’ve heard rumblings that Dudley and Co. have shown some interest in forward Lee Stempniak. If he were to be brought in, one would think he’s got the inside track to that final top-six spot with Buff on defense.
And that would probably mean Spencer back in Chicago with Arturs.