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Boy, what a wacky first couple of weeks of the NHL season. Up is down. Left is right. The Canucks and Oilers are both in playoff spots.
To that end: After five games, Dustin Byfuglien of the Winnipeg Jets is leading the NHL in average ice time at 29:20 over 149 shifts.
That’s more than Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings (28:05) and Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild (27:01) and Erik Karlsson of the Ottawa Senators (26:48), anyone of whom you’d expect to have topped this list.
Here are Byfuglien’s five games on the season thus far. Keep in mind the Carolina Hurricanes and Toronto Maple Leafs games were actually overtime affairs.
Now, consider this about Byfuglien, listed at 6-foot-5 and 260 pounds this season:
– In the entirety of last season, he played over 30 minutes in a game twice. He’s already done it three times in five games.
– In the first five games of each of the last two seasons, the most Dustin Byfuglien played was 23:42. He was under 22 minutes played in nine of those 10 games.
– Byfuglien is averaging 4:42 on the power play and 2:16 on the penalty kill.
– His average time per shift is 59 seconds, leading the NHL. He was tied for seventh-highest in the NHL at 55 seconds last season.
So what’s the deal here? Why is the U.S.S. Byfuglien being deployed with such frequency?
The obvious answer is currently out of the lineup and demanding a trade.
Consider that Jacob Trouba played 22:03 per game last season. He played 2:43 on the penalty kill last season. Byfuglien’s numbers for both have gone up. So have Byfuglien’s shifts with Trouba out of the lineup: From 27.5 on average last season to 29.8 per game so far this season.
One other variable that deserves mentioning is the World Cup of Hockey, which altered the preparation time for all players involved in the preseason tournament. Byfuglien only played two games thanks to Team USA being utterly terrible, but it did cause him to his ramp up his training a bit earlier than in years past.
Obviously, we don’t expect Buff to continue to log these kinds of minutes. But then again we didn’t expect Richard Panik to be leading the NHL is goals on Oct. 24, and yet here we are.
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