There was an interesting article posted by Chris Botta of NHL Fanhouse the other day. He’s landed a three part (part one and two) interview with Thrashers GM Rick Dudley that is worth checking out. The first part centers mostly around new acquisition Dustin Byfuglien, and his role with the team. Granted, Dudley does not determine how he is being used on the roster – Ramsay does – but the conversation was steered towards the possibility of Byfuglien filling in on defense. Dudley had this to say:
[I]f we play him on one of our top ‘D’ pairs, he can also be one of the most dominating defensemen around. You saw how he played when the Blackhawks needed him on defense last season. Dustin’s only 25 years old. Coming off that performance in the playoffs, he’s only scratching the surface of what he is capable of.
What Dudley could be hinting at here is something along the lines of “yes, well, we’d like to have him up-front, but we want to give Pettersson or Burmistrov a chance to crack the roster along with Cormier, so if two of those guys make it, we can put Buff at defense.” Dudley has a point. If he doesn’t see Valabik sticking with the D, and Kulda comes up regardless, playing Byfuglien at defense could set up these pairings:
I’m more of a fan of pairing Bogosian and Enstrom together personally (Bogo’s numbers were far higher with Toby his rookie year than they were with Hainsey last season), but getting Bogosian and Byfuglien together could spark some scoring chemistry that could offset the +/- rating being a bit low. The last full season Byfuglien played defense, 2007-2008, he had 19 goals and 17 assists in 67 games. A healthy Bogosian is a scoring threat, and he should be healthy again this season without the wrist injury. The two of them together are space clearing scoring threats that could work out well.
Rawhide looked at the sophomore slumpers of last season, and rightfully tagged Bogosian as one of the biggest offenders. His +/- dropped from a +11 to a -17, which is a huge plunge. The main reason for this is the absolute lack of chemistry he had playing with Ron Hainsey, and the stubborn idiocy of keeping that pairing together further complicated the problems. Placed with Enstrom at the beginning of the season, his play was far better. Yes, some of this can be chalked up to being hurt, but he also played markedly better with his old juniors partner Kulda. A pairing with Buff, or anyone other than Toby, for that matter, won’t bring Bogosian’s numbers back up as high as his freshman year, but they should be higher than they were that season. A Bogosian-Buff pairing would also be more potent than an Enstrom-Sopel one, and better matched. Hainsey and Johnny Oduya played well together last season, but I can’t help but hope that Oduya and Brent Sopel’s positions are flip flopped from my speculative pairings above.