Now that we’re less than six days away from the beginning of the Sabres’ 2013 season, it’s as good a time as any to start examining some of the storylines that fans of the blue and gold will be following in this shortened regular season. In this, the first of my new recurring segment, I’m posing two questions, the first being . . .
After missing 27 games last year, including 19 in a row, Myers seems to be perfectly healthy and ready to anchor the Sabres defense. I’m sure Sabres fans couldn’t be happier; after all, he was the 2010 rookie of the year, and is currently ranked as one of the 50 best defensemen in the NHL by bleacher report. Myers is a great skater, and has that long reach which allows him to get his stick on the puck even when he’s 25 feet down ice. (Okay, I’m exaggerating. But just a bit.) He is the Sabres most offensively-gifted defenseman, to boot, and has already scored three OT goals in his young career (which is a Sabres record that he will only keep adding to). Perhaps the biggest reason to feel good about his return? The Sabres were 9-11-7 without him, and 30-21-4 with him in the lineup. If the Sabres continue to play that well when Myers is in the lineup, I’m confident we’ll see playoff hockey in Buffalo this year.
As big a boost Myers’ return should have for the Sabres this season, could picking up Steve Ott have an even bigger impact? Yes, I know: we’re comparing apples to oranges here, as Ott is not a defenseman. Offensively, Ott contributes about as much as Myers does, as he had 39 points in 2011-2012 (11 goals, 28 assists) – numbers that are nearly identical to the 10-27-37 Myers put up in 2010-2011. Contributing as much to the offense as a defenseman doesn’t make Ott sound like much of a pick up . . . but we all know that offensive production wasn’t the reason the Sabres went out and grabbed Ott. As talented as Myers is, he epitomizes the Sabres team as whole: great skills, little grit (so far). The same cannot be said of Steve Ott: he was brought in to provide grit, and to do some of the dirty work that a lot of players avoid (or do, poorly). Myers’ return might be enough to propel the Sabres into the playoffs, but could Ott’s mental toughness and experience be the final ingredient to a Stanley Cup-winning formula for the Sabres? Stay tuned!
On to the next question:
Will the Sabres make a major trade in an effort to go “all in” this season?
As my colleague Tim Redinger wrote here, all signs currently point to a trade in the Sabres’ not-so-distant future. The Sabres really could use a top-notch center, and who wouldn’t be in favor of seeing the organization go out and grab the likes of Ryan Kesler, Logan Couture, or Valtteri Flippula? Guys who are second-liners on their teams, but could easily be a first-line center on the Sabres? After all, Sabres President Ted Black went out of his way to affirm in the statement he released on January 7ththat the organization remain committed to the one goal of winning the Stanley Cup – does that commitment include pulling the trigger on a blockbuster trade? Or is Buffalo happy with the young group it has, and unwilling to swap the future for the here and now? I tend to think that any moves Buffalo makes this year will be for utility players, but I know a lot of fans are dying for the Sabres to swing for the fences and do something that will make people take notice. Not many “experts,” if any, are giving Buffalo anything less than a snowball’s chance in hell of winning it all this year, so if the Sabres brass wants to change that, it’s going to take some serious brass on their part. Something to hope for, for sure.
As always, feel free to add your comments or fire me a Tweet @theaveragedick!