On Sunday, the Sabres acquired a new defenseman, snagging Jamie McBain and a second round pick from the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for Andrej Sekera. Many Sabres fans aren't very familiar with Jamie McBain, so we reached out to our Hurricanes-lovin' friends at CanesCountry for some perspective on Buffalo's newest blueliner. The following comes from C-Leaguer over at CanesCountry.
Jamie McBain. Where to begin...How about this?
That’s McBain’s first goal. A booming point shot against Pittsburgh that crosses the goal line with 0.9 seconds left in overtime to give the Canes a thrilling 3-2 win. That goal came on March 20, 2010 as part of a 14 game trial McBain got with the big league club at the end of the season. In that brief period of time, McBain put up 3 goals and 7 assists for 10 points while going +6 and playing over 25 minutes a game. At the time there was Calder Trophy talk and it looked like the Canes had themselves a good young puck moving defensemen that could play the point on the power play, and be serviceable if not above average in even strength and penalty kill situations. In the next two seasons McBain would play 76 games each year, putting up 30 and 27 points, with a good portion coming on the powerplay. His average TOI hovered just under 20 minutes a night, with lesser PK time (about 30 seconds per game).
This last season, unfortunately, has been a troubling one for McBain. His average time on ice fell to 18:25 a night, but that was not the worst of it. A few times this past season Jamie McBain found himself in the press box as a healthy extra. For, whatever reason, McBain and Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller never seemed to see eye-to-eye. Muller would prefer for the Canes to be a bigger team that is tougher to play against. McBain, while he is 6’ 2" tall, doesn’t play with all of that height, and would certainly never be considered a physical presence. Jim Rutherford noted yesterday in discussing the trade that McBain showed up to camp in less than stellar shape. This is no way to endear yourself to the relatively new coach Muller, especially when Muller was able to get team captain Eric Staal to buy in to the work ethic that he wanted. This isn’t to say that McBain is a problem in the locker room, more to say he’s still young and could use a bit of maturity.
All of this has put Jamie McBain at a cross-road in his career. McBain still has the ability to quarterback a powerplay and he has a strong accurate shot from the point. That said his play at even strength and on the penalty kill seemed to regress this year. His decision making left a lot to be desired and his lack of physicality saw him get bodied off the puck too frequently in tough areas of the ice thus limiting his ability to get the puck out of the zone.
The question for McBain at this point in his career is what does he want to be? Does he want to be the second pair guy with power play specialization and the ability to play on the penalty kill he appeared to be early in his career, or is he solely a power play specialist that a coach has to pick situations for him to play at even strength and on the penalty kill? Unfortunately, in Carolina with Muller as coach, McBain was likely not to get the opportunity to be the player he showed promise of being, although McBain did bring much of that on himself. With Buffalo it’s a new opportunity for a young player who probably needs a change of scenery and has a cap hit that is friendly enough to for a team to carry him and give him the opportunity to prove himself.
Personally, I believe that McBain still has the ability to turn in to more than just a power play specialist, however, that view is not widely held at CanesCountry. He has the tools. The question is if he can put it all together and get in a system that plays to his strengths.
Thanks to C-Leaguer over at CanesCountry for the perspective.