July 23, 2012
Time for Jets, Byfuglien to turn page
By KEN WIEBE, QMI Agency
You to have think that Dustin Byfuglien in particular and the Winnipeg Jets organization as a whole were breathing sighs of relief on Monday.
After all, it could have been worse for the Jets’ star defenceman.
By avoiding a trial and having the more severe charges thrown out by the court, Byfuglien came away relatively unscathed, pleading guilty to careless boating in a Minneapolis court room.
Without delving too deep into the laws of Minnesota, accepting a misdemeanour was a much more palatable ending to an incident Byfuglien wishes he could have avoided entirely.
There are no immigration concerns associated with the sentence and Byfuglien will be able to move freely across the border, a big plus given his profession.
Byfuglien didn’t say much about the verdict on Monday and those who cover him on a regular basis weren’t the least bit surprised by that.
He’s an intensely private guy who shies away from the spotlight at the best of times.
The only comment the Jets offered was in the form of a statement from general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff that said the organization was thankful to see the matter resolved so that Byfuglien can look forward to the upcoming season.
It was quick and to the point.
And really, what do you expect the Jets to say?
Byfuglien created this problem and must now deal with the consequences.
As much as he may have tried to put the legal woes on the back burner last season, you’d have to think an enormous weight has been lifted for Byfuglien.
Once Byfuglien gets back to Winnipeg for training camp, he will be asked about the ordeal one more time.
Byfuglien will likely apologize for any distraction he caused, say he’s turned the page and is excited about the upcoming season.
The legal process has run its course and as long as Byfuglien holds up his end of the bargain, his brush with the law will fade into the sunset and the focus will shift back to hockey.
Case closed, pardon the pun.
Although Byfuglien proved to be a lightning rod for a combination of criticism and praise last season, there’s no questioning the impact he makes on the ice.
He’s a game-changer and despite missing 16 games due to injury, Byfuglien was third on the team in scoring and managed to produce 12 goals and 53 points.
Yes, there is the matter of him freelancing regularly and getting caught out of position. But Byfuglien seemed to buy into what the coaching staff was selling and made an effort to work on his play in the defensive zone.
Many will argue there’s still a lot of untapped potential and others continue to imagine how good he could be if Byfuglien dedicated himself to dropping a few more pounds and being in better shape.
A series of unflattering photos of Byfuglien that surfaced inside and outside of the courtroom in Minneapolis on Monday certainly won’t quiet that faction, but at the end of the day, Byfuglien will be judged by what he does on the ice and not what weight he tips the scales at.