Jan 18, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) skates with the puck while being defended by Columbus Blue Jackets right wing Nathan Horton (8) during the second period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres Should Keep Tyler Myers


Jan 27, 2014; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) skates with the puck during the third period against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Consol Energy Center. Penguins beat the Sabres 3-0. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Sabres have to decide who they want to keep from their current talent pool for what will be a multi-year rebuilding project. Since winning Rookie of the Year honors in 2010, Tyler Myers has been mostly inconsistent in his career, which has led to his name coming up repeatedly in the trade rumor mill. His trade value took a hit when Darcy Regier signed Myers to a big extension that set his cap hit at $5.5M for the next five years after this season. While it’s tempting during a rebuild to want to trade everything not nailed to the floor for future assets, the Sabres would be wise to stand pat and see what they have before trading a player whose career is historically projected to blossom in the next few years.

Consistency isn’t easy to find among men between ages 19 and 24. It isn’t what Sabres fans have been treated to so far with Tyler Myers. However, this is nothing new with the age or the position. Myers was taken 12th overall in 2008, in a first round loaded with promising defensemen. Of the 12 blue liners taken in that first round, three have emerged as bona fide top pairing blue liners (Drew Doughty at 2, Alex Pietrangelo at 4, and Erik Karlsson at 15).

The second tier include Myers, John Carlson, Zach Bogosian, Luke Schenn, Michael Del Zotto, Luca Sbisa, and Colton Teubert. I wouldn’t definitively put any of those players above Myers. I think there’s a lot of promise in that list, and also there’s Luke Schenn. Myers does make more than anyone in this tier, but he’s arguably the most promising of the bunch. He may not be the steadiest defenseman presently, but his upside outreaches most of the others, given his size and ability. That said, it’s hard to judge anyone drafted in 2008 as a fully developed pro. Even the aforementioned top three guys have their struggles at times. This is a young bunch with a lot of promise, but nothing is a given with guys mostly hovering around age 24.

Jan 18, 2014; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers (57) celebrates a goal with teammates during his 300th career NHL game against the Columbus Blue Jackets during the first period at First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Since we can’t predict these particular careers, let’s take a look at how other first round blue liners fared with more years of seasoning. Since Buffalo has Tyler Myers signed for five years, let’s go back five years and see where we might expect a highly touted defensive prospect to be at career-wise by age 29 or so, when Myers would be a free agent.

Seven blue liners were drafted in the first round of the 2003 draft. The first six (Ryan Suter, Braydon Coburn, Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, Brent Burns, and Mark Stuart) have all reached their peaks between years 5 and 10, if not a touch sooner. The only exception is the 30th overall pick, Shawn Belle, who has largely played in the minors to this point. Suter was a Norris trophy nominee for the first time in his career last year. Phaneuf was just signed to a seven year deal and is the best blue liner on his team by a mile. Brent Seabrook has been a top line defenseman for two Cup winners. The others have all proven to be solid players in at least one major facet of the game. The unifying trend of these top six? Not only have these players reached their peak in the last five years, but they’re still at an age where they warrant another big contract and can be in their prime for most of it.

Obviously it’s not fair to compare Tyler Myers to any of those players and expect that’s where he could/should be, but the 2003 class reflects the idea that a defenseman’s career trajectory is a long, wide arc that requires patience. Myers arrived in the NHL much sooner than most of his peers, and to this point he’s played more NHL games than all but three first round blue liners from 2008. His first 300 games have been rocky, but promising, and that’s nothing new for the position, and it certainly doesn’t warrant expulsion.

Keeping Myers for another five years ensures that Buffalo will see just what his prime looks like. He needs a proper coaching structure and some continuity on the team in order to give him a fair shot. It’s not a coincidence that the three best defenseman from the 2008 draft are on perennial playoff teams. Structure helps. There hasn’t been a lot of that in Buffalo for a while, but now that it’s arrived, it’s time to trust the system and see what young players can step up and thrive in a new environment. GM Tim Murray has said he will listen to all offers, but it’s hard to believe a smart man like Murray would even entertain anything but a monster offer that saw a top center in return for Tyler Myers. Let’s hope it stays that way.

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  • Kevin

    Great article Cory. I hope they keep him too. His 1st season was a anomaly. Underneath, he wasn’t realy ready at all. We found that out didn’t we. Let’s say he didn’t start that 1st season the way he did, he more than likely would have been sent back down juniors. IMO he was to young and raw for the big boys, then he tried to live up to his Calder Cup exceptions, losing Tallinder. And it spelled doom for the kid. However, this year I have seen the most growth out of him so far. So yes. They need to keep him.

    • Cory Buck

      Thanks Kevin. I agree. I think if Myers hadn’t been called up in his rookie year, the expectations would be much different and no one would think about trading him.

  • Jes

    Great read Cor.

    He’s a definite keeper.

    • Cory Buck

      Thanks Jes!

  • jimbobv2

    Like with any player, it depends.

    If the Sabres end up drafting Ekblad, I can see Myers getting moved in a deal for an impact winger as Ekblad would give them 4 really good young RHDs (Ristolainen, Pysyk, Myers, & Ekblad).

    The toughest part to figure out to this point is what is Tim Murray’s blueprint and does Myers (or Ristolainen or Pysyk or any other player or prospect) fit into what he wants HIS team to look like moving forward?

    With Myers, there is plenty to be hopeful about (especially since his play has picked up since the coaching change) and there is plenty to worry about (will he ever be worth his cap hit?).

    • Cory Buck

      I agree. The deeper we get at blue line, the more expendable anyone gets. They could trade Myers tomorrow and I’d be happy as a clam if the return was solid.

  • qwicwted

    Meyers is starting to regain some of the form we saw from him his freshmen year. I think Tallinder leaving the team upset Meyers balance and he wanted to live up to all the promise that he showed. For the past two years he has looked confused and I wondered why when he had James Patrick and Teppo as defensive coaches. I believe Nolan has him and the team just simplifying their game and going back to basics and it has improved his game along with Staffords.
    At this point, I think anyone and everyone on the Sabres should be available (except our promising youngsters) and Murray should listen to all offers. IMO, I think all our starting D should be on table- doesn’t mean we have to make a trade – but could make for some interesting rumors.

  • alex

    You don’t thin Carlson is better than Myers?

    • Cory Buck

      I think they’re pretty close. Carlson might be a touch better now, especially on offense, but Myers still has more talent and potential to be a solid overall top four guy IMO.

      • alex

        Myers has more upside – no argument. However until he plays up to his ability and size – Carlson is, in my opinion, better. His nod to the olympic games does well to prove what others around the league think of his abilities as well.

  • David Clark

    If the Sabres can pull off the rumored deal for Evander Kane (he’s the jewel of Murray’s eye… and I have to agree with him), then they’re going to have to part with high quality assets. It wouldn’t surprise me if the Sabres consider the opportunity to draft Ekblad as a means for moving Myers in a deal for Evander Kane. Obtaining Myers would allow the Jets more freedom to trade Byfuglien, as well… even though he’s been playing wing in recent games. I really like Myers’ game right now, but I’ve liked his game in the past only to see him regress. As fans, we use that wonderful 20/20 hindsight and always say “should have traded player X when he had value”… well, folks, Myers has value again along with his long-term contract.

    • Cory Buck

      Feels like Buffalo would have to kick in more to get Kane for Myers. That’s part of the reason I don’t think a deal works right now. If I was a GM, I would not give a top forward like E. Kane for Myers. I’d lowball BUF in hopes of them biting, but nothing more. To me, Myers is worth the most in Buffalo right now, but if Murray can fetch a haul like Kane even if he has to throw in a mid level prospect and/or a mid round pick, then there’s no question they should take it.

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  • JerrySabresFan

    Good article pal. It makes me happy to see some optimism in a year drowning in cynicism and negativity. Let’s hope he continues on his current path and that the majority of the bumpy road is behind him. I’m really curious to see what this team will look like post trade deadline, especially on the blue line. Let’s cross our fingers that management makes smart moves.

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