Thursday April 2nd, 2015

The NHL’s Department of Player Safety brought out the big hammer on Thursday, suspending Dustin Byfuglien for four games for his assault on unsuspecting Rangers forward J.T. Miller on Tuesday.

Granted, a vicious crosscheck to the back of the head might merit a lengthier sentence, but anything more than two games is an eyecatcher from a disciplinary committee that too often errs on the side of lenience. 

Along with time served, Byfuglien will forfeit $111,827.96 to the Players’ Emergency Assistance Fund. But his teammates could pay an even larger price.

The Jets, who have yet to make the playoffs since relocating to Winnipeg four years ago, are now locked in battle with the Kings for the final wild card berth in the West, the two teams each having 90 points as of Friday’s action. Losing the 6' 5”, 265-pound behemoth for all but one of their five remaining games deals a serious blow to the Jets’ chances of holding off the defending champs.

Byfuglien, after all, is a unique talent, a player who can dictate the course of a game through sheer intimidation. Whether he’s blasting an attacking forward along the wall or unloading a howitzer on the power play, he’s someone who forces opponents to keep their heads on a swivel. 

Most contending teams have reasons for concern as playoffs near

Although the Jets have survived without him in the past—they went 4-2 during his recent six-game stint on IR—this is different. It’s all hands on deck time now. But instead of having the All-Star on the ice for this crucial stretch, the Jets will have to rely on journeyman Jay Harrison to fill his spot on the roster.

He’ll give it all he has, but Harrison is not Byfuglien. Not even close.

And so if the Jets fall short while he sits out these next four games, you can fit Byfuglien for the goat horns.

He deserves them.



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