We are just 16 games into the season, and there are still many questions to be answered on the state of the Sabres blue line. Will Nikita
Zadorov play the season out in Buffalo, or will he be sent down to the OHL? Will Brayden McNabb finally get his chance to prove he is a full time NHLer? Will our so called number one Dman Christian Ehrhoff be dealt? With the Sabres in the early stages of a rebuild, it would make sense for Regier to move a veteran piece or two and acquire some draft picks or prospects; however, Regier has done an exceptional job at this, as the Sabres have an astounding 17 combined 1st and 2nd round picks between 2012-2015. I will examine some possible moves the Sabres may realistically make on the back end.
Let’s start with the obvious and take a look at the young pieces the Sabres have drafted over the past couple of years. I think it’s safe to say that Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen Nikita Zadorov and 2012 2nd rounder Jake McCabe aren’t going anywhere. These players represent the future of the Sabres blue line. Both 1st round picks in the 2013 draft, Ristolainen and Zadorov have impressed during their time up in Buffalo and have an abundance of potential. Mark Pysyk played extremely well during his call up last year, and although he’s off to a slow start this year, I truly believe Pysyk will pan out to be a solid top 4 Dman in a couple of years. Jake McCabe led team USA to a Gold medal last World Juniors, and he too will have a major impact on the Sabres blue line in the near future.
With the veterans on the blue line, it is unfortunately a different story. Christian Ehrhoff is off to another below average start to the season. Although he is classified as “a number one Dman” by most Sabres fans, he has been a huge bust since signing his erroneous contract with the Sabres. Even though he eats up minutes, he can’t move the puck on the power play, can’t hit the net from the point and he often takes shifts off and wins limited battles in the defensive zone. If I’m Regier, I would be looking to move Ehrhoff in a heartbeat if there were any takers. So far, Henrik Tallinder has been unable to revive the career of Tyler Myers. Once again, Myers is having a below average year, sitting at minus 8 and looking completely lost. Tallinder on the other hand, is a minus 5 and taking up a valuable roster spot. To say the least, Mike Weber is struggling. Sitting at minus 12 in 11 games, Weber needs to step up his play when he is healthy.
Perhaps the biggest mystery with the Sabres blue line is that Brayden McNabb is still in the AHL. In 8 games with the Rochester Americans, McNabb has 9 points and has been the Amerks best Dman. McNabb had an extremely solid preseason with the Sabres, and it is unfortunate the McNabb is not up in the NHL. Hopefully Regier is able to move a veteran or two in the near future so McNabb can finally showcase his talents and prove that he belongs in the NHL.
We are just 16 games into the regular season, and it seems that we are in for a long one. With the subpar play of the veterans on the back end, it is the young players that we must look forward to. Ristolainen, Zadorov and Brayden McNabb are the light at the end of the tunnel. Although there are dark times ahead, we must believe and have faith in Darcy Regier that he can lead us back to the promise land sooner rather than later.