Sep 16, 2011, 7:21 PM EDT
It hasn’t exactly been a great offseason for Dustin Byfuglien in the media this year. He’s still awaiting a legal resolution to an August 31 boating while intoxicated charge—which under most circumstances would be enough to ruin a summer. But many will remember that just as the legal charge made big headlines, it was Big Buff’s weight that was the big surprise. Here’s where he’s at: he played at 245 lbs last year; he’s currently listed at 265 lbs; he tipped the scales on the night of his arrest at 286 lbs.
Needless to say, there were some question marks as Byfuglien appeared for his first day of Jets’ training camp today. Not surprisingly, the defenseman took the questions head-on like they were an opposing forward:
“My weight’s always going to be the same. I have no problem with my weight. They’re (the Jets) obviously happy with my weight, I just got done (his physical).”
Then again, would you tell a 6’5” man, who weighs 286 lbs and is known for his strength that he’s overweight? No thank you.
More significant that Byfuglien’s comments were the remarks from the rest of the people within the organization. To a man, none of his coaches or teammates had anything negative to say about his conditioning—or anything else relating to Byfuglien. His new head coach, Claude Noel, said that he “looked great.” Teammate Mark Stuart explained that Byfuglien will always be a big guy if he wants to remain effective because of the style of game he plays.
The most telling comments came from Jets’ captain Andrew Ladd. This is his third city with the talented blueliner and he has a good grasp on Byfuglien, his conditioning, and the media’s response. From NHL.com:
“I think it’s something people have liked to talk about since he was in Chicago,” Ladd said. “He looks the same to me. I don’t think I’ve ever had a problem with Buff, fitness-wise.
“You look at him and maybe think one thing, but you see him on the ice and see what he does at his size, and the speed that he has and what he can do, and it has never been a problem for me. He looks good, and once he gets on the ice, you’ll see what he can do.”
For anyone who has ever been a member of a team, it’s good to see his teammates have his back. The next step will be for Byfuglien to prove them right on the ice. No one is going to remember any of the positive comments on the first day of training camp if he looks sluggish throughout the preseason.
There’s no questioning that Byfuglien is a big guy who plays a physical style of game. He’s naturally big—which works because of his style of play that has made him an effective NHL player. But as people in Chicago will tell you, Byfuglien’s biggest challenges (and periods of inconsistency) occurred when he was the most overweight. He’ll need to find the healthy balance between big player who has a towering physical presence and the guy who isn’t in shape to play at the NHL level.
He says he’s fine. His team says that he’s fine. We’ll find out when the team steps onto the ice and he shows what he can do. As they say, the proof is in the pudding. No pun intended.
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