On the first day of Christmas the Buffalo Sabres needed to address the needs of a franchise goalie. On the second day of Christmas – a much
shorter read as arrive on the second day of Christmas and the Buffalo Sabres need, two shutdown defenseman, and a franchise goalie.
A franchise goalie can really only be as good as the teams in front of him. While the Buffalo Sabres may have a defensive corps that is developing into a solid group of guys, what they are missing is two guys that when paired together, are a “shutdown pair” that opposing offensives not only game plan for when they come into play, but cringe when the thought of playing them together comes up.
Do the Buffalo Sabres have those capable defensemen on the team right now? Off course they do, but none of them are close enough to be considered a shutdown defenseman or pair for several years as projected by Bleacher Report. Sure it sounds easy to just go with what someone else says, but when they are right – they are right.
The Buffalo Sabres and their fanbase need to be patient with their defensive prospects, and could potentially have one of the most feared top two pairings if all the variables fall into place for the blue and gold.
Who are the top prospects? Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk, Nikita Zadorov, and Tyler Myers. Now I know what you are thinking – Tyler Myers a prospect? Yes. Despite winning a Calder Memorial Trophy as the National Hockey League’s rookie of the year, the former Buffalo Sabres regime completely messed with Tyler Myers’ head and tried to transform his game. Myers needs just as much NHL development as Pysyk. Ristolainen and Zadorov are a few years away from being a threat in the NHL consistently.
Pair those four guys up. Ristolainen with Pysyk and Zadorov with Myers. In my opinion, your not getting one shutdown pair, but a 1A, 1B defensive combination that will keep the Buffalo Sabres on the winning end of the stick night after night. Four guys that can feed off each other, hit, stand guys up, and put the puck on the net successfully.
What’s troubling for the Buffalo Sabre though – is what to do with Christian Ehrhoff who was brought in under the ten year contract realm and will be on the Buffalo Sabres roster until 2021, unless they use a compliance buyout – but that is unlikely given the team has to use those buyouts this off season. Ehrhoff will be useful until the foursome is ready to skate on their own. With the cap jumping up as high as the projected 71+ million dollars by next season – the deep pocketed Sabres owner Terry Pegula could still buyout Ehrhoff, and take the penalty on the salary cap. Buying Ehrhoff out of his remaining contract would probably only constitute the last 3-4 years of his contract – as he will need to play the ice time worthy of 4 million dollar contract until then.
There is not much to focus on when your talking about Ristolainen and fellow first round draft pick Nikita Zadorov. I think you are getting two different type defenseman, which leads me away from being fearful that we could end up with a Mikhail Grigorenko vs Zemgus Girgensons debacle here. The large difference is the change in culture to grow the youth as opposed to stoking them over the fire like the organization tried to do with Grigorenko.
Where the first round pairing of Grigorenko and Girgensons was supposed to save the Sabres organization from a offensive standpoint – that will never happen. Proper development gives the Buffalo Sabres that shutdown tandem in Ristolainen and Zadorov, guys that shared the stage in 2013 as Buffalo Sabres first round draft choices.
Where the former regime screwed up the development of Mikhail Grigorenko they did right by the likes of Mark Pysyk, who despite still playing
the 290/490 shuffle is ready for a full time spot in the National Hockey League. What he isn’t ready for is that number one pairing. Pysyk is, like his other teammates showing new life with Ted Nolan and Pat Lafontaine at the helm.
Tyler Myers is getting back to what Tyler Myers is best at. There are still large gaps in his game, but he is showing the new life we need to see as a fanbase. Getting his head right is not going to be a single season effort though. The Henrik Tallinder experiment was a debacle – and an expensive one at that. Tallinder came back to the Sabres making almost 3.4 million dollars. At 34 years old I don’t doubt that there is a team that will pick Hank up as a utility defensemen but his days as a top four defenseman are over.
Myers point production and abilities have declined since winning the Calder Memorial Trophy at the end of the 2009-2010 season. Myers will need a much longer hockey re-education to undo the last two plus years of misdirection before he will regain his place within the organization as a top defender.
So where does that leave us on the second day of Christmas? Patience is the gift of the day, because the Buffalo Sabres have the parts they need to get not only one, but two shut down pairings in the National Hockey League. The only problem with the pieces they have, is they are like slow growing safe stocks – your not going to see the absolute return for several years.
Tune in tomorrow and everyday through Sunday January 5th as we countdown the twelve days of Christmas Buffalo Sabres style taking a look at what the organization needs, has, and will do to become a Stanley Cup contender.