Dustin Byfuglien was acquired for the Blackhawks in a blockbuster deal on June 24 after Rosseau, Minnesota dominated opposing defensemen in the playoffs on the way to a Stanley Cup Championship with Chicago. Now the player known as Big Buff is making a switch back to his natural position of defense where he'll bolster an already solid Thrashers blueline. Byfuglien arrived in Atlanta on Wednesday and took a few minutes to talk to atlantathrashers.com about the switch from forward to defense, his thoughts on the trade that sent him to the Thrashers along with three other Blackhawks, and his impressions of Atlanta as a city.
The big question of the summer has been whether you'd play forward or defense and coach Ramsay said recently you'd suit up on D to start camp. What's your take on it? Are you excited to play defense again?
BYFUGLIEN: Yeah, I've always been a defenseman growing up. I came into the NHL as D and I've only played a couple years of forward. We talked a lot and had many conversations about what I was going to play and what they want me to play. So, yeah I'm going to play D to start off and I can always go back to forward. So defense is where I'm going to start.
You've played 299 games in your NHL career counting regular season and playoffs. What percentage do you think were spent at forward?
BYFUGLIEN: It's probably been more on forward than defense now. I really don't know. It might be right in the middle.
What year did you make the switch?
BYFUGLIEN: I made the switch three years ago, in 2007-08. This would be the third year I played forward, but I played some defense last year too. It's about even. I think I had 70 or 80 games as dman before I got switched, then I went back and forth since.
What is it about playing defense that makes you prefer it over playing up at forward?
BYFUGLIEN: It's just coming up the ice and being able to see everything and being able to read the game. You control so much more of the game back there. It's just something I enjoy doing.
What went through your mind when you were told about the trade?
BYFUGLIEN: Right away I was actually bummed. After coming off of winning the Cup, it wasn't even two weeks after we won. You're still in a celebration mode, but once I got off the phone and sat down and really thought about it I was excited. I was ready to get out of there and get ready for a new change and set new goals for myself. I'm excited and I can challenge myself for new things in life. It's just another step.
Your agent posted some pictures on Twitter of you posing with the Stanley Cup in a Thrashers jersey. was that a way of turning the page?
BYFUGLIEN: Pretty much. Someone sent the jersey to me so I took a picture to say it's a new chapter- let's get going.
Switching back to defense you'll have a familiar face coaching you with John Torchetti being in charge of the Thrashers blueline. What can you say about him from your time together in Chicago?
BYFUGLIEN: It's going to be interesting. He'll be fun. He'll help us out a lot. He ran power play and forwards in Chicago. He's kind of quiet as a coach. He'll tap you on the shoulder and tell you "Good job" but he knows how to keep the kids in line too and how to get them going. He reads players really well.
Sum up each of the other guys coming from Chicago in one phrase or sentence.
Brent Sopel- BYFUGLIEN: A real family guy who loves his Red Bull.
Ben Eager- BYFUGLIEN: Simple, funny, and a character.
Andrew Ladd- BYFUGLIEN: Just a meathead.
Akim Aliu- BYFUGLIEN: Have you seen his hair lately? That explains it all.
Not counting the other former Blackhawks, who do you know on the Thrashers roster?
BYFUGLIEN: Aside from the other Blackhawks Slater is the only one I really know. I know him just from skating with him in Minnesota.
How much time have you spent in Atlanta?
BYFUGLIEN: Besides the one road trip I played, I got delayed here a couple times in the airport. Imagine that. That's it though.
What have you heard about the city?
BYFUGLIEN: I've heard really good things about Atlanta to be honest with you. I'll have no problem getting around and having a good time and seeing the city.
What's on your list of things to do in Atlanta?
BYFUGLIEN: I wouldn't mind catching a ball game for sure, and maybe catching a football game. Just get out and see the city and get to know it a little bit better.
For more from Big Buff watch this Thrashers TV video: