Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres Twelve Days of Christmas - Day Two

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

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

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

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

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.


Tags: Buffalo Sabres Mark Pysyk Nikita Zadorov Rasmus Ristolainen Twelve Days Of Christmas Tyler Myers

  • Jes

    Good read Tim…

    Myers is a definite keeper.

    I’d definitely deal Ehrhoff, Weber, Prospect and one of the later first rounder’s that we’ll get from the Miller, Ott and Moulson deals for Edmonton’s 1st rounder in this years draft.

    McBain and Sulzer can also go. There are better options out there. I’d personally like to take a run at Edmonton’s Justin Schultz. He’s UFA at seasons end and would replace any of the offense left behind by the trading of Ehrhoff until Risto and Zadorov are ready to go fulltime.

    What shutdown defensemen are out there that can be acquired through trade right now? I really like that guy on the Isles, his name isn’t coming to me but he’s a real good defenseman and blocks shots like nobodies business.

    • Timothy Redinger

      If your going to have this two headed shutdown pair with Pysyk, Ristolainen, Zadorov, and Myers – why trade for another shutdown defenseman that’s going to cost you? Your bottom defensive pair you could keep a guy like Weber, maybe Sulzer, or Ruhwedel. Your bottom three defenseman are going to be your role playing defensemen. The name shouldn’t matter. I like Weber in that role. I think once the top four solidify, you will see the change in Weber’s game where he cuts out the mistakes. He plays a hard solid game. I would land him in my five spot, and your six and seventh defenseman can be your prospect/fringe guy that you could easily replace.

      • Jes

        Well Pysyk, Ristolainen and Zadorov are a bottom 4 right now on a bad team and they will take some time to develop. To bring in a decent shut down for the first pairing is a good idea for now but if you were just talking about the future then I’m good with what we have now. If we end up drafting Ekblad in first round who is on the block? I think Pysyk should be put on the trade list if that were to happen.

        Weber I’d have to disagree about. He stinks. He’s always on the ice when we get scored against. I’d rather have two rookies as the bottom pairing then him.

        • Jes

          Pysyk is closer though.

        • JHizzle75

          I agree with you with regards to Weber. He makes a lot of mistakes that cost Buffalo goals. However, he ( from what I’ve seen of him) seems to be our only D man with a nasty edge. He’s always defending Miller or Enroth whenever opposing teams get in the crease or take whacks at their gloves. That is one of the few things I like about Weber, he’s a great team player, sticks up for himself and his teammates, so if we let him go I think we need to replace him with a like-minded, tough, hard-nosed D man. Zadarov looks like he will be that guy in a few years, but until then we will need a guy to make teams pay for taking liberties with our goalies.

          • Dano

            Good read Tim.

            “seems to be our only D man with a nasty edge. He’s always defending Miller or Enroth whenever opposing teams get in the crease or take whacks at their gloves.”

            Thats what I like about Zadorov. He seems to play an older style North American Defenceman. I once thought Myers would use his size and reach as an intimidation factor, but he doesnt.

            I would love to see another Korab/Schoenfeld type of combination on the ice.

          • Jes

            Ya that makes sense but IMO you could find someone not as challenged as Weber to fill in that role as the “Aggressive” defenseman while Rov and Risto develop. But then again like you said Weber could turn his game around with a lesser role.