As the Sabres continue on with what seems like one of the darker timelines the 2011-2012 season could have taken, a rookie has emerged on the defensive side of the puck that people are clamoring to. That defenseman, Brayden McNabb is getting dangerously close to 10 games in the blue and gold and that means that for better or worse, Mr. McNabb could be a permanent roster fixture before the start of the 2012 calendar year.
I have loved some of the things that McNabb has done on the ice. He is a hard hitting, no nonsense defenseman, whose grinding play fits well with Robyn Regehr and Mike Weber. But can we really say that McNabb is ready for the NHL? As fans, we have been desperately hoping for a savior for this middling hockey team since the Lucic Incident. Fans (including myself) have cried out for more Zack Kassian, more Joe Finley, less Andrej Sekera and Marc-Andre Gragnani, and most importantly, more winning.
During McNabb’s short time with the Sabres, he has certainly shown that he is a capable defenseman. He has been a punisher along the boards, in the corner and in front of the net, but McNabb has not been a world beater. See for yourself, as bright as his future may be and as much as he has seemed like a high point during these low times, McNabb has only two items on his stat line that are worthy of praise. He has zero points, and a -2 +/-. On the other hand he has logged serious ice time and he has not been one to take stupid penalties. What I have taken from these stats is that McNabb is smart enough and fit enough to play on any team in the NHL, but it doesn’t seem like his offensive uptick or his defensive zone presence are there yet.
It is unfair to judge his defensive zone presence on a -2 and his offensive uptick on only eight games. He is young and there are still growing pains. That being said, you can call me old fashioned or a man of little faith, but I enjoy seeing the growing pains of Sabres players happen in the distant land of Rochester. McNabb’s most important stat is not one you see on the ice, but one you see every passing year. He is only 20 years old. He won’t even be able to legally enjoy a post game beer after a game at the F’N Center until next January. Face it, the dude is practically a child. Us fans have plenty of time for McNabb to become the player that he has the potential to become. Patience has proven to be a virtue with Sabres draft picks and I would rather see McNabb go the route of Jason Pomminville, Paul Gaustad or most recently Luke Adam, where they are developed in to the players they are now because of minor league experience. Frankly, I am ecstatic over the potential McNabb holds, but I can also wait a year if it means he can improve.