Dustin Byfuglien is perfect for the meme age. The massive Winnipeg Jets defenseman has already been gif-ed several times in these playoffs and after Game 3 against Vegas, it happened again.
Big Buff, as he is accurately known, pulled both Tomas Nosek and Colin Miller off a pile-up at the same time in an attempt to help his scrumming Jets teammates. It wasn’t even the first instance Byfuglien has grabbed two opponents at once in this post-season, as he did it again Nashville, too. Behold the glory.
Dustin Byfuglien is the NHL’s greatest bouncer pic.twitter.com/kdedKWIQvn
— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) May 17, 2018
I mean, it’s funny, but it’s also pretty impressive. Nosek weighs 210 pounds, while Miller weighs 196. That’s a hell of a lift for one man wearing skates. Winnipeg has seen many heroes in these playoffs so far, from Mark Scheifele to Connor Hellebuyck and Paul Stastny. But Byfuglien has been an engine, a player who has used his Stanley Cup championship experience with Chicago and brought it back to the fore, charging up the ice, unleashing bomb shots and wrecking opponents in collisions, whether or not he was the initiator or not.
He’s also a fun player to look at in terms of evolution. In terms of top-end players, the 6-foot-5, 260-pound goliath is really only rivaled by the taller Zdeno Chara when it comes to size. I’m not sure if anyone is stronger than Chara, but for Byfuglien to get up the ice as quickly as he does, let’s acknowledge that he’s not just some large dude with a heavy shot. Toss in his personality and it’s hard to picture another player like Byfuglien coming along, but we should get used to giant hockey players coming around more often.
Sure, the game is faster than ever, but the sport is getting more athletes than it ever has, too. Part of this is due to the growing global nature of the game and the spread of hockey throughout the United States. Now, Byfuglien was practically pre-ordained to be a hockey player: he hails from Roseau, Minnesota, a small town with a huge passion for the game. Neal Broten and his brothers Paul and Aaron all came from Roseau, as does Aaron Ness, who played for both Washington and Hershey this year.
But Auston Matthews very well could have been a baseball player had he been raised 20 years earlier in Arizona. And with each passing year, it becomes more common to see kids from Arizona, Florida and California earn entry to USA Hockey’s National Team Development Program. In terms of sheer size, we will continue to see outliers. In this summer’s draft, for example, you’ve got 6-foot-7, 218-pound Jachym Kondelik from USHL Muskegon available. OHL Ottawa’s Kevin Bahl is already 6-foot-6, 231 pounds; how much do you think those kids will weigh once they’ve had a couple more years in the gym, putting more muscle on their frames?
Even though Byfuglien doesn’t fight very often (which makes sense, given how valuable he is to the Jets when he is on the ice), it’s not hard to see that bear strength of his and wonder what would happen if you had a time machine. I know some folks like to wax rhapsodic about old time hockey, but let’s be real: Big Buff could snap Eddie Shore in two. Which is my way of saying that the phrase “they don’t make hockey players like they used to” is wholly inaccurate, unless you’re using it as a compliment. It’s beyond obvious that today’s NHLers are more elite than ever, but when you toss in the sheer power and talent that Byfuglien can demonstrate, even when he’s doing something unorthodox like pulling dudes into the air, it all really comes into focus.