The saying “Gone to the dogs” means that something has gone terribly bad and lost all good things associated with it. While many fans believed, at several points, that this season had “gone to the dogs,” its more like the season had gone to the docs, doctors that is. Only one player played the entire season and that was Jason Pominville. At one point or another, 19 different players were out with some kind of illness or injury. Because of this, several players were forced to make the drive from Rochester to Buffalo to play in a few games as a replacement. The most notable were Corey Tropp, Marcus Foligno, and Brayden McNabb, but we will talk about them later. For now let’s look at who didn’t have an extended stay: Joe Finley, Colin Stuart, Travis Turnbull, Derek Whitmore, TJ Brennan, and Paul Szczechura.
Starting with #4 Joe Finley. Finley was drafted 1st round 27th overall by the Washington Capitals in 2005. However, he never received his chance at the NHL team. On September 18, 2011, Finley accepted an invitation to training camp by the Buffalo Sabres. He impressed enough that he was signed to an AHL contract, and assigned to the Rochester Americans.Through the first quarter of the season, Finley was impressive as one half of the Americans shut-down defensive pairing. He led the Amerks in +/- with a +10. The Sabres and Finley reached a three-year contract on November 28, 2011, that will allow Finley to be called up by Sabres organization. In five games during his call-up, he scored no points but was a -3 with 12 penalty minutes one shot on net.
Next is #15 Colin Stuart. Younger brother of Winnipeg Jet’s defenseman Mark Stuart. Stuart was drafted in the NHL by the Atlanta Thrashers with the 135th pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft from Colorado College. n 2009, Stuart was traded to Toronto and less than a month after that was traded to Clagary. Following the completion of his contract, he signed with the Sabres on a try-out basis and earned himself a one year deal to play in Portland. He then signed another one year extension with the Sabres last summer. Stuart has been a solid player for the AHL, tallying 44 and 32 points in the past two seasons 72 and 51 games respectively. He has played a total of 5 games for Buffalo and played in 2 this year where he was a -3 with no points, shots or penalty minutes. At 29 yrs old, he is a perennial AHLer and will only make the roster should another slew of injuries run rampant through the forward ranks.
Now #33 TJ Brennan. Brennan, drafted 2nd round 31st overall, is considered one of the Sabre’s top five prospects and third defensive prospect behind McNabb and Pysyk. In 2010-2011Brennan got off to a slow start in his second season with Portland but a five-game stint at forward seemed to jump start him offensively. After scoring 4 goals with 4 assists during that November stretch, Brennan returned to the blue line and finished the season with 15 goals and 24 assists. Late in the season, he received his shot to impress the Sabre’s brass and played in 11 games and netted only one goal and six penalty minutes. He has an impressive shot and has used his time in the AHL wisely, working on his footwork and mechanics. It is strongly believed that the 23 yr old has a chance to fight for a spot opening day. We shall see if he can keep up the good work in training camp and preseason.
#58 Paul Szezechura is 26 yrs old and was signed by the Sabres to add depth to their AHL roster this season, after the AHL coaches complained about them always taking their top players. However, Paul impressed Lindy and Darcy with his play early in the season that he earned a nine game call-up. In these nine games, he netted 1 goal and 3 assists in 11 shots and sat in the box for only 4 minutes. Szezechura had an even more impressive AHL season, however, with 21 goals, 25 assists for 46 points and a +16. This offseason, Szezechura is in his last season of being a restricted free agent and could possibly be signed as a veteran for the Americans as well as an emergency basis injury call-up.
Next is #65 Travis Turnbull. In 2009, the Buffalo Sabres signed Turnbull to a two-year entry-level contract and assigned him to play for their AHL affiliate, the Portland Pirates. In 2011 the Sabres re-signed Turnbull, who had arbitration rights, to an extension. Turnbull is a solid role player, playing 3rd and 4th line minutes in the AHL, tallying 12 goals and 15 assists in 63 games but racked up an impressive 117 penalty minutes. Travis earned himself a call up in the last 2 weeks of the season on emergency basis and played in two games, scoring his first and only NHL goal against the Rangers at MSG. Turnbull also got 5 penalty minutes for a fight. Travis’s contract is ending this offseason and he will be an unrestricted free agent. Expect him to only be resigned if the Sabres want depth in the AHL ranks.
Finally we come to #71 Derek Whitmore. Whitmore is an AHLer for life and has played admirably since being signed in March of 2008. This season Whitmore had 28 goals and 16 assists and a -1 in 72 games. Whitmore was called up for 2 games but earned himself zero points, and +/- of zero and no penalty minutes. Whitmore is 27 and an unrestricted free agent, so don’t expect him back.
It seems like the Sabres called up a few of these “rookies” just to see if their game would translate to the big leagues before their contracts ran out. As of right now it appears that 3 of these six players will no longer be under contract by Buffalo and will be handed their walking papers.
Up Next is #6 Mike Weber.