One of the most important pieces of the team is the defensive corp. Here are how the Sabres blueliners faired this year:
Tyler Myers 82GP 11G 37A, 32PIM Grade: B
In the longest hockey year so far for the Sabres rookie – he logged an incredible amount of ice time – and it is a true testament to how well Myers is going to work in the NHL. Up for rookie of the year honors (Calder Trophy Finalist) Myers made the Sabres after only his first training camp with the team. Level headed and calm, he was a presence on the point that was even bigger than his 6’8′. Myers has a lot to learn and made some rookie mistakes; but all in all was the best defensemen the Sabres dressed all year.
Steve Montador 75 GP 5G 18A 75PIM Grade C
Forwards strive to be a point a game or better player. Montador was brought in to bring a level of toughness that the Sabres were lacking, and turned into a minute a game penalty receiver. At first I was a little leary about the Sabres signing the journeyman to a contract, but he served a role and for some nights was an outstanding addition. While I would like to see more consistency out of Montador – whether in his point production or grit – he could end up being a valuable asset to the system.
Chris Butler 59GP 1G 20A 22PIM Grade D
Another full year in Portland could have improved his game greatly. With the depth the Sabres showed at defense, I think bringing him on board this year was a small mistake. While he performed well, when the Sabres needed bodies the most, he was a scratch on repeat nights. Next year at training camp, if I were on the coaching staff, I would look for a lot of improvement in his game, or he will be playing music chairs between the bench and the press box again.
Craig Rivet 78GP 1G 14A 100 PIM Grade D
If there was one major failure on the Sabres roster this year it was the Captain, Craig Rivet. Ruff not wanting to sit his captain probably hurt his team in the long run, because a benching might have been necessary this year to rattle the veteran blue liner. I would hope to see the “C” removed from his sweater next year, and given to someone who is going to lead both on and off the ice. Rivet can still be a force in the locker room as a veteran player, but the Sabres need someone on the ice who is going to lead by example, and not just by talk.
Andrej Sekera 49 GP 4G 7A 6PIM Grade C
After the performance that Sekera put in at the Olympics, I was expecting much more out of him in the second half of the season and in the playoffs. The longer season and the playoff experience will help improve his game, but the young blue liner has some more grooming before he can be a top six defensemen. A solid off season could make inserting Sekera into the starting six an easy decision come training camp.
I touched on Lydman and Tallinder right after the season when I broke down the Free Agents the Sabres were going to need to let go or resign, so I won’t get too much into them here again, but I think its time to let Lydman walk in free agency, but another year on the blue line with Myers might be a perfect recipe for the Sabres and Tallinder.