WINNIPEG - If you thought Dustin Byfuglien was going to let a legal issue or rumours of a weight problem become a distraction going into the NHL season, the Winnipeg Jets defenceman provided a clear indication on Friday that would not be the case.
As the Jets arrived for medicals and physicals on the eve of the first official skate, Big Buff was calm and even produced a couple of laughs.
Byfuglien didn’t shed any light on what happened the night of his arrest for suspicion of boating while intoxicated. But he did express remorse about what had taken place.
“I can’t really talk about it right now,” said Byfuglien, noting he was heeding his lawyer’s advice.
As far as reports of Byfuglien weighing between 275 and 286 pounds, Byfuglien offered up a gem when asked if he wanted to set the record straight.
“No, just write whatever you want,” said Byfuglien. “My weight is always going to be the same. I have no problem with my weight and I’m happy with my weight. My job is to do what I do on the ice. I love my job, it’s something I enjoy doing. I get to bang people around and score.”
Byfuglien is sure to be one of the guys the Jets rely on this season.
“He looks fit, he’s healthy and he looks great,” head coach Claude Noel said. “Yes he is. He’s one of the stallions in the corral.
“We’d like to build off of what he did last year. I don’t judge people by their numbers. I wouldn’t say we need to get X amount of goals and X amount of points. I would like him to be an efficient player, which is pretty much what we’re going to demand of all the players.”
Byfuglien’s teammates were quick to offer support.
“It’s been talked about since he was in Chicago,” said captain Andrew Ladd. “He looks the same to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with Buff fitness-wise. When you see what he does at his size, with the speed that he has and what he can do, it’s never been a problem for me. He looks good and once we get on the ice, we’ll see what he can do.”
Zach Bogosian thought Byfuglien even looked skinnier than last year and fellow blue-liner Mark Stuart — who worked out with Byfuglien this summer in Edina, Minn. — took it a step further.
“I know he’s in good shape and I know personally that he’s ready to go,” said Stuart. “I tell people all the time, I don’t think he’d be as good a player if he didn’t look the way he does or if his body wasn’t built the way it is. I’ve never seen anybody as strong as him. He’s powerful and he gets around the ice. Even if he wanted to be, I don’t think he could be one of those guys that is just chiselled.”
Byfuglien might prefer to keep a low profile when it comes to the media spotlight but guys who have played with him before call him a good teammate and a fun-loving guy.
“He’s great in the room,” said Stuart. “He’s one of our leaders and he’s going to be a big part of our leadership group here. Guys know what Dustin brings.”
“He’s a great guy. He’s a great guy to hang around with and he’s the same guy he was in junior,” added forward Eric Fehr, who played with Byfuglien briefly as a member of the Brandon Wheat Kings in the Western Hockey League.
Here’s the thing, as long as Byfuglien does what he does best and performs on the ice, nobody is going to care one bit about what he may or may not weigh.