Byfuglien a fan of the 'Peg
KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
|Jets defenceman Dustin Byfuglien makes an appearance during the second day of the NHL draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., June 25th, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)
ST. PAUL, MINN. - Dustin Byfuglien is embracing what is soon to be his latest new home.
One of the key pieces for the Atlanta Thrashers last season after helping the Chicago Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup in 2010, Byfuglien is ready for what will be his third new address in as many years.
“It should be good,” said Byfuglien, who was at Xcel Energy signing autographs and took some time to meet the media on Saturday. “Everybody should be excited about it. I know the fans up there are. We’re going to be playing in front of a full crowd again. It’s going to be fun. Anytime you have a full barn behind you, it’s like having another player on the ice.
“Every way you look at it, it’s going to be better, in a positive way. All we have to do is play hockey and everyone will appreciate it after a little while. Every one knows their hockey up there and the guys should be taken care of pretty well.”
Byfuglien was born in Minneapolis but grew up in Roseau, Minn., which is roughly two hours south of Winnipeg.
“It’s been kind of crazy, everyone is ready to watch me play hockey and it’s going to be fun to let everyone have a chance to see me play,” said Byfuglien. “I don’t know if half the guys on the team have been to Winnipeg, but they better get to like the outdoors.”
As for the name, count Byfuglien among those who support the decision.
“I got a little smirk on my face,” he said. “As a kid growing up, we watched them and everybody loved the Jets and loved the uniforms. I’m exciting to put it on.”
Byfuglien, 26, enjoyed the full-time move from forward to defence and anticipates staying on the back end.
“It was good, pretty smooth for the most part,” said Byfuglien, who had 20 goals, 33 assists and 53 points in 81 games last season. “The end of the year didn’t happen the way I wanted it, but for the first year going back (on defence) I thought I did all right.”
Byfuglien, who signed a five-year contract extension last season, has been talking with captain Andrew Ladd of late and hopes they’re teammates for many years to come.
“Hopefully, he gets it done soon,” said Byfuglien of talks to sign Ladd to an extension.
As for the team itself, Byfuglien made it clear the Jets expect to be a factor in the Southeast Division.
“We’ve got a lot of young guys, guys with a couple years in the league who are going to be improving every time they step onto the ice,” said Byfuglien. “That’s always a good thing. It’ll be a fun team to watch. We’ve got a lot of young guys with good skill. We’re a hardworking team and we should be all right.
“I think we’re more than capable of making (the playoffs) and I don’t think there’s any reason why we should be satisfied by not making it.”
Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff was happy to see Byfuglien spend some time meeting the staff, including new head coach Claude Noel.
“Buff is a jovial guy who can light up a room, we had a good couple of laughs and I know him and Claude spent some quality time together, which was great as well,” said Cheveldayoff. “It was great for the kids that got drafted when he was down there to get the chance to meet and see him.”