Byfuglien happy in his roles as defenseman and clutch goal scorer

Sunday night, just after blasting the puck through Rick DiPietro to give the Thrashers a 2-1 win over the New York Islanders, Dustin Byfuglien skated over by the glass in front of section 103 in celebration. He turn to display his left arm toward the cheering fans, took his right hand and lifted up the sleeve to display the A-T-L-A-N-T-A that runs down it.

Fans love that stuff, ya know.

Big Buff certainly seems to be happy securing wins for his new city, it’s team and their fans. And he’s also appears to be very, very comfortable with playing the role of Mr. Clutch. As coach Ramsay put it after the win, “He wants to be a difference-maker all the time”.

“That’s the biggest asset a hockey player can have … is to want to be the difference-maker, to want to be the guy, to be the man. He puts his hand up.”

Byfuglien has been putting his hand up a lot this season. The goal he scored 1:30 into overtime, sending the Islander away with the thirteenth consecutive loss, was his seventh so far while his 19 overall points is second only behind captain Andrew Ladd. His three power play goals tie him with Rich Peverley and Anthony Stewart for second on the team, just behind Nik Antropov’s four. And two times the thrashers have won games in overtime…both times the players doing the honors were, you guessed it, Dustin Byfuglien.

Dustin Byfuglien celebrates his OT winning goal with Toby Enstrom on Sunday. It was Buff's second overtime score and fourth gam-winner this season (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Dustin Byfuglien celebrates his OT winning goal with Toby Enstrom on Sunday. It was Buff's second overtime score and fourth gam-winner this season (AP Photo/Gregory Smith)

Buff not one…not two…no, not three…but four game winning tallies on the season. That’s pretty impressive considering Atlanta has only nine wins so far

Byfuglien’s performance this year is exactly what Thrashers fans had hoped for last summer when GM Rick Dudley made that big trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. Only, many around here had though such ice-ice heroics would come from Buff as a forward…not as a defenseman.

When Dudley leaked the news that the 6-5, 265 lb Byfuglien might be moved back to his natural position on defense, it was met with much wailing and gnashing of teeth. The Blackhawks had placed Buff on the forward lines a couple years ago to add size up front…an experiment that proved to be a success…and we wanted to see his big frame screening goalies for us too.

“We need that big body up in front of the net”, fans said.

“Put him up front during power plays”, was a common suggestion.

“Our offense looks weak and we need him there to help”, was a frequent lament.

“Buff is a terrible skater and will be a liability back there”, some even warned.

Admittedly, I scratched my head over the thought of having Byfuglien taken off the list of forwards available to the team and placed on the blueline. However, a month and a half into the fall campaign, the wringing of hands about such a move has proven to be unwarranted.

Beginning with Byfuglien’s personal stats…7 goals, 12 assists, and EVEN +/- rating, 2 OT goals and 4 game-winners…it doesn’t appear as though he’s struggling at all back there. And looking at those numbers, I guess it could be said that what Byfuglien has done here is become the Zach Bogosian type of player we had hoped for from…well…from Zach Bogosian.

As far as team numbers are concerned…again, the Thrashers don’t seem to be struggling too much in the wake of Dustin’s move to the D-line. They are potting goals at a 3.05 per game clip, tied with Pittsburgh for seventh best in the NHL, and their power play is a sixth-best 23.5% effective. Also, this offense is getting a lot of good looks at opposing goalkeepers as they are getting off 30.3 shots per game, which is the most since 2005-06 when they took 30.8 S/G.

And while the defensive unit Byfuglien is a part of is giving up an alarming 35.4 shots thus far this season, that number is improving having allowed just 30.6 SA/G. Regardless, Dustin isn’t exactly embarrassing Thrasherville with his play back there.

Giving credit where it’s due… the decision by Dudley and Ramsay to move Byfuglien back to defense has been a success and has proven to be the right one.

100 comments Add your comment

R. Stroz

November 22nd, 2010
11:06 am

J(Z)

November 22nd, 2010
11:10 am

He’s on the ice probably about 8-10 minutes a game more than if he were a forward…I’m cool with that!

Paminski

November 22nd, 2010
11:16 am

It was the first game I was able to attend this season. DiPietro had some crazy saves. Also, tough name to fit into the “goalie, you suck” chant. Our goalie is starting to appear more consistent than he’s shown us before. O.P. made some incredible saves himself and the guys are playing better in front of him lately. Antro looks all warmed up for the season, no waiting for him this year. I agree, Bill. The crowd loves the “Buff” and he deserves the admiration. Looking good hanging out with the little Enstrom that could. All in all a solid effort.

thebighairybeast

November 22nd, 2010
11:27 am

Buff, Ladd, Kane, and several others are playing with heart. Even young Burmi is playing way above his years. The Washington game was sick! And last night was solid. Kinda get the feeling things are starting to come together.

Joe Friday

November 22nd, 2010
11:30 am

“Buff is a terrible skater and will be a liability back there”, some even warned.

What idiot said that? Wait, never mind . . .

The last two goals he’s had, they’ve been as a forward stepping into the slot and scoring, not a dman. He’s like a hybrid and that’s a good point that J(Z) has about him getting more time on ice from the d position.

Hip Czech

November 22nd, 2010
11:32 am

Just one suggestion…make the A on Enstrom’s jersey be a lower case a. Just seems like the right thing to do, big A, little a. :-)

Thomas Magnum

November 22nd, 2010
11:33 am

I’ve got to say that I was one of the people who would rather have had him playing forward because I didn’t think we would have enough offense. I’m glad I have been wrong about both of those things and I hope the team continues to keep scoring. If only we can get our defense locked down.

I was also a little bit skeptical of the trade that we made to bring Buff here because I didn’t want to give up Morin. So far that is looking like a great move as well! Glad to have Buff here and he is quickly becoming one of my favorite Thrashers!

R. Stroz

November 22nd, 2010
11:47 am

Buff is bringing some swagger to a team that needs someone to become the new “marketable” player.

Joe Friday

November 22nd, 2010
11:55 am

“Buff is bringing some swagger to a team that needs someone to become the new “marketable” player.”

He was the guy that brought it all together in Chicago during the Cup run. Big Buf was the fan favorite, bar none.

rob

November 22nd, 2010
12:07 pm

He needs to be marketed more to the city. Watching him last year with the Hawks and now here with us, this is a guy that WANTS to represent himself and the team and the city. Give the fans here someone they can really get behind and cheer for! Oh and ASG better not screw this up and better lock some of these guys up…..the “star” status that brought non fans to watch IK skate 8s should be happy to come see some of the antics that are going on with the TEAM now! Now we need Buff to score a few away from home and taunt the fans there like I saw him do during the playoffs last year! PRICELESS and a great way to get rivalries going! Good old fashion hockey rivalries and passion will bring more fans out to games other than just 0 vechkin and Cindy.

razorneck13

November 22nd, 2010
12:07 pm

What did I predict a while back? “Lucky to get 10 goals being used as a defenseman”, I think it was. Sorry Buff. Now excuse me I have to get this egg off may face.

RS

November 22nd, 2010
12:08 pm

I’ve mentioned this on the Thrashers board before, but they need to find a way to use Big Buff to bring in Falcons fans. They’ve proved that they will come downtown and there’s enough of a “badass factor” to appeal to them.

World Be Free

November 22nd, 2010
12:24 pm

I nearly drove off the road when I heard we traded for Buff. The guy has the tools and the temperment to be a cornerstone player. The fact that he has lived up to the hype should be no surprise to anyone.

Can’t say enough about Burmie. He’s a kid, playing like a man. Great at both ends of the rink, slick moves and a smile all the time-he is having a ball. Veteran players should learn to have as much fun as Burmie is having.

To finish off the last blog, Stewart has to go when Cormier is ready. At least Jimmy tries; Slater is a 185# guy that plays like he’s 235#. Stewart is a 235# guy who plays like he’s 185#.

The Hainsey hit//I thought Ron held up on the guy, he could of really planted him. The league has already legislated fighting out of the game, now they are legislating honest body checks out as well. Very sad. Brings back memories of one of my favorite old Atlanta Flames, Hilliard Graves.

Alan R.

November 22nd, 2010
12:30 pm

He needs to be marketed more to the city.

This is more an underlying problem with the marketing department itself.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atlanta_metropolitan_area

The Atlanta metro area, as evidenced by the graphic, is huge. It even includes Chambers County, which is located in Alabama. Thrashers advertising should be everywhere, at the very least, inside the ten counties that comprise of the Atlanta Regional Commission.

There is absolutely no excuse for the lack of any advertising south of I-20.

There’s an old saying that goes something like this. To make money, you’ve got to spend money. Atlanta Spirit, you’ve got to put up the dollars if you expect fans to come out and pay the dollars. You keep saturating the same places with advertising, and you’ll keep getting the same fans. What you need is more fans. Get them in the door any way you can.

Advertise on Fox5, WSB, CBS, WXIA. Call Comcast and see if we can’t get some advertising thrown in with the rest of the local advertisements.

Advertise Byfuglien, Little, Enström, and the rest of our young core. Advertise them everywhere, not just the northern suburbs. Hockey is for everyone, not just for the northside.

Darkhorse

November 22nd, 2010
12:51 pm

WBF-Agree with you on the Stewart comments. He just doesn’t seem to bring enough to the table to warrant staying in a top six role.

I too, thought Buff to D was a receipe for disaster. I will tuck my tail on that, but I still don’t see him becoming a “shutdown the opposing team’s top lines” kinda dman. I’m fine with hybrid if he does his best to use that big frame and slow down his man, but don’t market him to the fans and league as a #1 franchise damn. We still need one of those.

jimbo

November 22nd, 2010
1:08 pm

D-Buff is a good skater and is surprisingly fast for his size. Ramsey is letting him roam a la Niedemeyer which fits perfectly for him. With over 20 minutes of ice team each game, he is getting more chances as a D-Man than he would as a forward. We are finally starting to play some team defense and it’s showing in the SOG. Pavs is playing very well. Am cautiously optimistic.

rob

November 22nd, 2010
1:21 pm

Yeah, Pavs is pleasantly suprising as he has not had many of those sliding into the corner out of position antics that plaugued him last year. Could our new found goalie coach have anything to do with this? I would like to have Pavs asked if Malarchuk is helping him moreso then Weeks. He looks as if he is coming around and if that is the case….as this team gels it bodes well for us! BAHHHHH! LMAO

bria

November 22nd, 2010
1:25 pm

TableHocey

November 22nd, 2010
1:31 pm

Buff could contend for the Norris if he keeps this up. Currently he is tied with Nash for game winning goals in the NHL. Gotta give Ladd props too – that screen on Antro’s goal could not have been timed more perfectly.

Most important to me was the win last night – the Thrashers of old would have absolutely lost that game!

Zombie Steve

November 22nd, 2010
1:31 pm

Glad to see Pavs playing up to his potential too. Perhaps this goalie “consultant” is helping?

World Be Free

November 22nd, 2010
1:40 pm

Darkhorse-you been to any games lately?
rob-obviously a good move hiring yet another ex-Sabre to Malarchuk.
Hitting a few blogs today, sounds like Duds is patroling other teams looking for a forward. I.D.W.T.

Thrashy Thrashy

November 22nd, 2010
1:55 pm

If ASG had the common sense to start annual Thrashers offseason tours in Georgia and hit places like Augusta, Savannah, Macon, Columbus, Albany, and Valdosta, they’d instantly get some free press all over the state at minimal cost.

That’s the kind of thing committed ownership should do.

I live in Albany. You never hear a word about the Thrashers. If ASG made an effort to promote this team in Albany, the odds are good that their results would be on the news every night. That’s free advertising.

saluda26

November 22nd, 2010
2:01 pm

WBF – Ole Hilliard Graves had the best hip check in hockey! Saw him lay out a few guys when he was with the Flames.

World Be Free

November 22nd, 2010
2:06 pm

saluda26-I remember Hillie’s hip checks very well. That was old school, you hip check a guy today you get jumped! The art is lost.

puckhead

November 22nd, 2010
2:50 pm

The only marketing this team needs is to continue winning and maybe cheap beer. I do believe they should provide the radio broadcast for free to stations outside of the 680 listening area.. Maybe get a % of local advertising revenue.

Party Pooper

November 22nd, 2010
2:51 pm

Went to the hot dog place on level 300 after the 1st period, on Sunday. I have a kid, it’s Kid’s Day, and there’s “Kid Meal” on the board. So, I ask the lady what’s the Kid Meal.

“We don’t have kid meals!” No apology. No explanation. She looks at me like I’m an alien.

It’s Kid’s Day. “Kid Meal” is on the menu above her. But they apparently don’t have such an item.

No biggie, really. Just interesting. Ironic, maybe.

The problem will probably be solved when they close level 300 with big black drapes…

NHL Ready

November 22nd, 2010
2:55 pm

Buff is really the D-man. Lets get some wins and build up the points. Big game VS Red Wings best team we will play so far this season.

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:07 pm

Party Pooper – I don’t doubt it for a second. The “service” on the 300 level (BofTW notwithstanding) is absolutely disgraceful and insulting to the consumer. Sage wants us to boycott the ASG, and I have absolutely no problem supporting a boycott of their ridiculously bad concession stands. I will still have my lone 24 oz Labatt and leave it at that!

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:08 pm

Cotton pickin’ spam filter!

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:15 pm

Fingers tapping on desk waiting for Smoothie’s next installment…

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:16 pm

Foot tapping on floor waiting for Smoothie’s next installment…

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:17 pm

Now, resorting to pacing to and fro in the hallway anxiously waiting for next installment…

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:18 pm

Where’s the justice Trixie?

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:20 pm

It’s like waiting on a Johnny Oduya shot from the point…could happen…may happen…someday

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:22 pm

Man with Eastern European accent from James Bond film…”9 minutes and counting…”

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:25 pm

R/L – too funny. Nothing to get your hopes up over…just lamenting the horrible concession stand service in the 300 level and commiserating with Party Pooper. If you want a serious “installment”, go check out my blog essay on the win over the Islanders’. In fact, that reminds me, I need to go get caught up on my RedLightReport reading!! :-)

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:26 pm

I think Trixie is probably on T’giving holiday this week. Bill can handle it as he’s been very much on top of things recently. I think he’s written about 17 blog entries in the last 4 days. Bravo!!

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:28 pm

Already read your fine post Smooth Spark!

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:31 pm

R/L – in the meantime, here’s something to sink your teeth into stat-wise…I know you love your stats! ;-)

Since the CBJ debacle on November 4th, your Atlanta Thrashers — unless you’re name is SOB — have out-shot their opponent in 6 of their last 8. And in doing so, they have averaged 34.75 SOG while only yielding an average of 31.875 over that 8 game span. Problem is their record as they only 3 of those 8 games (3 – 4 – 1), but that is certainly progress of a the positive kind. If anything, blame the PP as they have only scored 2 PP goals in the last 6 games. Of course, last nite’s PPG was a rather big one, thanks Nikolai!!

Red Light

November 22nd, 2010
3:31 pm

Odd timing…

“Philips Arena, home of the NBA’s Atlanta Hawks and the NHL’s Atlanta Thrashers, today announced the completion of the first phase of a multi-million dollar investment in its food and beverage operation. The concept changes, renovations and technological enhancements to Philips Arena’s dining offerings come on the heels of a $4.6 million redesign of its private business suites.”

Zombie Steve

November 22nd, 2010
3:38 pm

The concession folks are cup Nazis. Don’t bother asking for a spare.

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
3:39 pm

“Already read your fine post Smooth Spark!”

Awesome, thank you. Glad you thought it was fine…I was very happy with how it came out. Tough to frame around so many quotes, but I love that Rammer gives us so much material to choose from. Good stuff.

So, with the F&B “upgrades”, does this mean employees will actually be required to be cordial and considerate? How about some soda that doesn’t taste like cardboard from being so stale?

Alan R.

November 22nd, 2010
3:42 pm

I love Ramsay’s quotes. and I read the blog this morning, Smoothinator. A wonderful re-cap!

Party Pooper

November 22nd, 2010
3:47 pm

When I saw “Kid Meal” at the ‘dog stall, I started dreaming of a hot dog, chips, Coke, cookie, and toy-gift super-duper combo. Maybe I’d order two. One for the kid and one for me.

But then… for $5.50 at Philips?! So, I was really expecting a 3-incher with a glass of water. (I want to make a joke here but they might delete the whole thing)

She threw me off when she said they didn’t have kid meals. I wanted to ask her to turn around and look up at the menu right behind her but why bother.

Rawhide

November 22nd, 2010
3:52 pm

Smoothie – Your 3:07 pm comment has just been freed from blog purgatory. Sorry it took a while, I was supervising the tax exemptions as they de-leafed the back yard. By “supervising”, I mean sitting on the deck with a cold beverage and pointing out the fallen foliage that they had missed.

Reason # 27-B why having teenage sons is a very good thing indeed.

Yes, Trixie has the week off. The girl has something like 56 vacation days a year…don’t know how she talked me into that deal. Anyway, she took the AJC Thrashers Fan Blog’s American Express Card and is in New York City on a shopping mission and will be taking in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade.

Sherry Taylor

November 22nd, 2010
3:52 pm

It’s my understanding (I might be wrong, wouldn’t be the first time) that Buff signed only a one year contract. Well, I say, sign the boy to however many years he’ll agree to and pay him whatever he wants. He’s biggest spark this team has seen in . . . .a long, long time. He’s a leader, he’s an enforcer, he’s a skater, he’s the whole package. Pay him whatever he wants! And, if Ladd decides to leave after this year, Buff is the perfect choice for captain. And, another thing that makes him a good player is he is willing to accept responsibility for his mistakes. It takes a big man to admit when he’s wrong.
I agree about Stewart, for someone who started out well with the hat trick and his play on the west coast, he has fallen behind. Maybe he has the safe type attitude Kovalchuk had–I can and have to do it all by myself. I just think he’s slowed that line up. Little and Kane are putting it out there but there line mate seems to be slowing up. Too bad.
Nice to see Pavelec becoming what we’ve been told he could become. He’s played masterfully. I, too, am cautiously optimistic.

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
4:03 pm

Bill – I can see you on the porch sipping your beverage in between the barking of orders to pick up EVERY LEAF that has fallen. Can’t have any “leafs” of any kind disgracing your yard! I had a feeling Trixie had run off to NYC with the company card. I’ll pray for the existence of this blog as a literary going concern.

Alan – thank you sir for the kind words! I’m glad you liked it. I do hope that my feeling about this team is confirmed by its play over the next month or so. We still have a very difficult schedule with the next 8 games against playoff teams from last year: DET, MTL, BOS, COL, PIT & WSH (AGAIN!), NSH & COL again. We need to win at least 3 or 4 of these to stay in the hunt till things soften a bit: NYI, OTT, TB, CAR, NJ (ha ha!) TOR. December does not end easy either: StL, BOS, TB, PIT, BOS, NJ.

Wow, the sked makers did not want us anywhere near .500 by Christmas, did they?? Perhaps this team will start gaining some national attention with some wins over these tough teams other than Washington.

Smoothie

November 22nd, 2010
4:08 pm

Sherry – Buff is still under the contract he signed as a RFA during CHI playing days. It was Laddy that signed only a 1 year deal and if he keeps up this level of play, his $2.35 M salary will look like a real drop in the bucket!!

But I agree, time to start working on new deals with a X-mas holiday announcement to keep away the holiday blues (see last year’s 9-game winless streak). I say 3 years and $13.5 M for Big Buff (4.00, 4.5 and 5.0 perhaps) and a 5 year deal for Ladd (I bet he’d like to settle into one city finally) valued at around $4 M / year on average.

Pray for new ownership by next Spring so we can lock these guys up no later than the playoffs if Christmas time goes without contractual gifts from the ASG.

Darkhorse

November 22nd, 2010
4:19 pm

WBF-The Bhawks game was my last one. Sat right behind the Chicago bench. Fun game to be at, other than us losing. Almost made it to the Islander game last night, but had too much going on at the house to make it in time from Emerson. Thought about coming this Wed against the Wings after work, just not sure I can stomach all the Detroit fans that will be there. Not that I blame them, they have a good team this year to cheer for.

alex

November 22nd, 2010
4:24 pm

from very beginning didn’t understood reason Chicago part ways with buff. cap problem? everyone but buff. he is games changing star. so what next? say thank you stupid Chicago, get him long deal and build around. you going to get Stanley cup contender every single year. real owners get this conclusion easily, but asg not real, i am pessimistic until they in power.