Buffalo Sabres Preseason Judgment Calls: The Case For Matt Hackett

With the Buffalo Sabres preseason well underway, I continue to play Devil’s Advocate for, and against, some of the players who are fighting to retain, or fighting to win, a permanent spot on the Sabres’ roster.

Having recently argued against Patrick Kaleta, I am going to spend this post making the case for goaltender Matt Hackett.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

In some ways, this post could also be called the case against Jhonas Enroth, since Enroth is currently the back-up goalie for the Sabres behind current starter, Ryan Miller.  After all, I’m advocating that Hackett could easily slide into the back-up role, with the hopes of inheriting the starting job when – sorry, if – Miller leaves town.  I don’t want to sit here and bag on Enroth, however, even though he did lose 241 consecutive games at one point – it’s true!   I’ll just say that, despite his solid play at the end of last season (an effort that did not go unrecognized by me), I have little to no confidence in Enroth’s ability to withstand the pressure of having to be the guy who starts 50-60+ games a year for the Buffalo Sabres.  Sorry, Jhonas, but I get the feeling that you’re destined to be a backup for pretty much all of your playing career.

Matt Hackett, on the other hand . . . let’s start with what we have seen recently.  Due to Ron Rolston’s decision to play Hackett this preseason in order to see what the kid has to offer, we have been given the opportunity to see how he handles two different types of pressure.  Against Montreal, he came into a back-and-forth affair in which the Sabres never led until they won the game in a shootout.  In that game, Hackett entered the second period with the Sabres down 3-2 and did a great job of keeping them in the game, stopping  11 out of 12 shots and stoning all three of the Canadiens he faced in the shootout.

Last night’s game against the Columbus Blue Jackets presented Hackett with a different type of challenge.  Instead of being asked to keep the Sabres within striking distance, Hackett came into the game with the Sabres and Blue Jackets tied 1-all and spent the third period trying to dash any hopes Columbus had of making a comeback.  The fact that the Blue Jackets only managed 5 shots in the third made his job a bit easier, but once again, Hackett came in and played extremely well, stopping all nine of the shots he faced.

Sep 15, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing Michael McCarron (25) misses a chance to score against Buffalo Sabres goalie Matt Hackett (31) during the third period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Hackett has not seen much NHL time – playing for the Minnesota Wild, he saw action in 13 games, going 3-7 with a .914 save percentage and a GAA of 2.64 – but he looked great in Rochester in the limited amount of time he spent with the Americans at the end of last season, and so far he has been rock-solid in between the pipes for the Sabres this preseason.  He is only 23, and has managed to compile some good numbers while playing for some less-than-impressive teams (the Wild, and their AHL affiliate the Houston Aeros).  More importantly, you just get a sense that Hackett is comfortable assuming the role of a starting goaltender in the NHL.    Over the summer he told Sabres. com, “My goal is to come into camp and prove that I can play at the NHL level and give them a tough choice to make,” and so far, he has done just that.   I know you’ve put in more time in the Buffalo Sabres’ system, Jhonas, but I’m here to tell you: Matt Hackett is coming to a Sabres team near you, soon.  Best be looking over your shoulder.

I’d love to hear your thoughts on Hackett, so leave your comments below or throw them my way @theamazingMrS!

Topics: Buffalo Sabres, Matt Hackett

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  • erico

    question is, does enroth mind being a backup or will he ask for a trade

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      If I were Enroth, i would assume that I have the inside track on the starting job, so if he lost that to Hackett, he would almost certainly request a trade (or sign with another club when his contract is up). I may be wrong about Enroth, so if he thinks he can wear the daddy pants, more power to him! :D

      • erico

        i feel the sabres are starting to turn this ship around. if they can solidify the line up then whoever is in the net shouldnt have a problem. the sabres have excellent goaltending in the system and is actually looking a bit packed. Miller may be leaving. If Enroth loses his job he may be out the door as well. by that time Hackett will be 25. ready to be the starter and Makorov will be 22. a solid age to start as back up

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Yeah – I’m not concerned with the goaltending potential in the pipeline. Should be a strength for years to come.

    • davidmuscalo

      Please, Enroth, ask for a trade!

  • qwicwted

    I like Hackett and while I like Enroth, I just am not that comfortable with him in net. He’s a small goalie that tends to give up juicy rebounds. I am sure he feels he is ready to be a starter, but I guess my sense (like most everyone who has posted) is that he is a solid backup. I think Hackett has the ability, skills and poise to eventually be a starter and he’s making a very good case for himself. I dont’ think we’re alone is questioning Jonas – as I think Hackett was an important piece of the Pommer trade (along with Larsson).

    • erico

      As much as Pommer meant to the Sabres Organization. I would do that trade any day. Larsson, Hackett 1st rounder which became Zadorov and a second rounder next year

      • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

        There’s no question Buffalo nailed that trade! I gave them an A+ for that when it happened, because Regier really struck gold that day.

        • erico

          I feel since we have a first and 3 seconds next year, regier is setting up a trade for a top 5 pick since the draft isn’t very deep

  • lee Munn

    I see a very similar thing happening as 10 years ago. When Hasek left…Biron was the back-up for years, waiting to be #1 and when the opportunity came Miller also got his chance for the 2 to compete & Miller stole it from Biron… ‘IF’ Miller is gone at end of this year. Same could very well happen with Hackett taking from Enroth’s opportunity… but with a few years same thing could happen with Ulllmark/Makarov/Peterson/Lieuwn/Knapp so only time will tell.

    • erico

      This team is actually looking like it did exactly a decade ago

      • lee Munn

        Which within a few years (’06-’07), became No. 1 team in League. Lets hope they do that again ….only finish their job & get a cup!

    • davidmuscalo

      There is a big difference between 10-years ago and now; Biron was a very good goalie, Enroth is not!

  • jimbobv2

    I think Hackett vs Enroth once Miller gets traded will be a very interesting competition.

    But, given that Enroth needs to clear waivers and Hackett doesn’t, Hackett is going to be the #1 for the Amerks this year regardless of how camp goes.

    • davidmuscalo

      If management had half a brain they’d waive Enroth and bring Hackett up to Buffalo to play.

      • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

        I was thinking the exact same thing.

      • jimbobv2

        Giving away players would be a brain dead move.

        Plus, as long as Miller is here, all the backup, Hackett or Enroth, will be doing most of the time is opening a door.

        The right move is getting Hackett games in Rochester and waiting until you can move Miller.

  • Jes

    It is time to get rid of Miller. He’s leaving via free agency or trade. You can just hear it in his words. Kind of a rocky relationship with him and the Sabres faithful lately. Hackett and Enroth are more than ready for stellar NHL careers.

    • davidmuscalo

      Enroth will never has a stellar NHL career!

  • davidmuscalo

    I hope Miller ends his career in Buffalo. Goal tenders with his talent, dedication and determination are rare finds. As for Enroth, I gave him a no confidence vote three years ago and he has done nothing to change my mind. I think he would be a great goalie in the AHL, but in the NHL, he doesn’t even make an adequate backup goalie. As for Hackett, he should be given the same opportunity that Enroth has had. Perhaps he can prove, unlike Enroth, that he belongs in the NHL.

    • Greg McCann

      are you stupid? Look at his stats the last 2 years. And Hackett is in the dog house

      • davidmuscalo

        No, you look at the stats of the defenses for the past two years and compare them with the defenses of teams whose goalies have better stats and Miller’s.

  • rayonlune

    I’ve watched Hackett play for quite a long time and I truly believe that he has the ability, poise, talent and most of all determination to be that start up goalie soon.