With the season now over after a return to the playoffs and the Western Conference Finals, we're looking back at each player who wore the Indian Head sweater for the 08-09 Season and grading their performance. Next up, possibly the most infuriating Blackhawk, Dustin Byfuglien
|2008 - Dustin Byfuglien||77||15||16||31||7||81||3||0||4||0||202||7.4|
The Good: The trouble with trying to recap Buff's season is that there are two versions of this man. First, there's the good version. The one that uses his size, strength and skill to change or even take over a game. When Byfuglien shows up to play he's an absolute monster on the ice. He led all the forwards on the team in recorded hits (169). His point totals dropped from last year (even with 10 extra games played) but his +/- was 14 points better than last year. Anyone who is looking for a high point total from Buff though is going to lead a very disappointing life.
Where Byfuglien can excel is punishing the other team with crushing hits and absolutely making life hell for opposing goalies - just ask Roberto Luongo. No one is sure what happened but sometime towards the end of the year Byfuglien decided to really turn his game around. Rumors have been bounced around that Buff was taken under the wing of Pahlsson but I haven't seen or heard any confirmation. Whatever it was - we saw the player we wanted all year at the end of the year and during the playoffs.
You can't talk about "the good" from Dustin Byfuglien without mentioning him in the playoffs, specifically the series against Vancouver, where Buff was good enough to be seriously considered the Hawks MVP in the second round. He was hitting anything that moved throughout the playoffs, only three forwards ended the playoffs with more hits than he did and they all did it with the benefit of playing in the finals. Luongo became very familiar with Byfuglien throughout the series as Buff did everything he could to disrupt his game. Luongo will deny Buff threw him off of course but from the Hawks side of things we see a different story. Not everything Buff did was exactly "legal" but rules are meant to be broken right? If Buff doesn't have the series he did - the Hawks may have not seen the Conference Finals this year.
The Bad: But then there's the other Byfuglien - the one we're all sick of seeing. The one that drags whatever line he's on down with his lazy play, poor positioning and lousy skating. No player can be more maddening than Byfuglien. For long stretches Byfuglien can completely disappear from the Hawks squad. He seems to have the perfect radar to do just enough to get by without being benched.
Who knows how many more points Versteeg may have been able to net if he hadn't been put on a line with Byfuglien during his "don't give a shit" setting? Hell, who knows how many points he cost Toews, Ladd, Bolland or whoever else was forced to drag him around the ice all night...
There's really no need to go into more detail with the bad side of Buff because we saw it for most of the year, we know it well and it might just make you hate him more for being so good in the playoffs and so frustrating the rest of the time.
Playoff Beard Strength: Pretty strong - possibly the best beard from a Hawk not from Western Canada.
Nicknames: (Big) Buff - plus a ton of other names that would make your mom slap you if she heard you say them.
Related Photoshops: Oddly - I don't think we have any.
The Grade: I can't give him anything higher than a C. Some players go through ups and downs that are just related to hot and cold streaks, Byfuglien seems to do that with just self-motivation. It could be that he's just learning his role as a forward after being switched to the spot last year but there's nothing more frustrating than a player who simply seems to not care and Buff is guilty of that in most fans' eyes. If someone like Pahlsson can get him to change then Buff could be a key piece to the Hawks - if not then I don't think any of us will mind seeing him traded for other parts, especially given his salary. Though I will be pissed that I finally learned how to spell his name without checking if he's no longer a Hawk. Your thoughts?