As the 2014 season draws close to an end and we think about the 2015 team, I’ve collected my thoughts on the current Sabres roster (plus some in the AHL). I’ve divided the players into three groups according to whether I’d like them to be around for the future or not.
Yes, please: keep these guys around
Christian Ehrhoff – since he came to the Sabres in 2011 he’s been (in my opinion) the best Sabre on the ice, day in and day out. Some would say he should be traded now while his value is high. I’d like to think the Sabres will be pushing for a playoff spot either the year after next or three years from now, and he’d be only 34, not so old for a defenseman. I hope he sticks around.
Zemgus Girgensons – His energy and "compete level", as they say, have been obvious since the first game he stepped on the ice. While the jury’s out on his ultimate offensive potential, it seems that at worst he’ll be a very good defensively minded forward, something every good team needs.
Drew Stafford – Stafford came up in 2006-2007 and scored 31 goals in 2010-2011. Since then he’s gone from a player who we hoped would be a consistent 30-goal scorer to one who still has the potential to score 30 any year, but seems more likely to top out around 20. While that’s been a disappointment, at the same time he’s turned into a well-rounded player who plays hard and drives to the net, seems like a high character guy, and is a team leader. He’s not a great player but he’s a good one and every good team needs good players.
Tyler Ennis – Ennis’s shortcomings are well known, but he’s offensively talented, produces at center and wing, and someone on the roster has to be able to score.
Rasmus Ristolainen – The team’s doing the right thing by having him play big minutes in Rochester, but from what we’ve seen when he’s been up, he’ll be good.
Mark Pysyk – Same as Risto above
Tyler Myers – It’s his fifth year and he’s a minus 26 while Ehrhoff, for comparison, is minus 15. But he’s still only 24, has shown flashes of his playmaking ability this year (especially under Nolan), it’s well known that defensemen take longer to develop. He still seems to have all the potential in the world. Let’s keep him around.
Marcus Foligno – Let’s be honest, this year has been a disappointment Foligno-wise, but he’s only 22. Give him at least another year to show what he’s got.
Enroth and Neuvirth - Both have played well since the Miller trade. Unless one self-destructs over the next 15 games, let’s keep ‘em both around.
Meh: I’m indifferent if they remain on the roster
Cody Hodgson – Very similar to Myers: he’s 24, it’s his fourth year in the league, and he’s a big minus player this year. Yet for Hodgson I argue that we already know exactly what we have: a smallish, fast center with playmaking ability but weak on the puck, and a terrible defender. I can’t see him ever being a #1 center, and he’s too poor at defense to be a #3, so we’ve got a #2 center who has to be sheltered. You might think more highly of Hodgson than I do, but ask yourself this: is he better than Derek Roy was?
Ville Leino – Ignore the contract and ignore the expectations, and take a look at what we have: still a highly frustrating player to watch, who at times can possess the puck in the offensive zone better than anyone else on the team but can’t seem to translate that to points. He was a second-line winger with the Flyers and that seems like his ceiling. Still, ask yourself this: would a good team play Ville Leino? I think the answer is yes, even if on a third line role.
Henrik Tallinder – Aging and still effective, but we have a lot of young defensemen coming up. Would be fine with him on the team next year, but will he be around when the Sabres return to relevancy? Doubtful.
Alex Sulzer – He has always looked decent to me. He’s cheap at least.
Brian Flynn – An offensive guy in college who seems like he’ll have to be a gritty high effort player in the NHL if he’s going to make it. Generally seems to do the right thing with the puck.
Matt D’Agostini – He’s fast and seems OK.
No thanks: please get rid of these players
Mike Weber – He plays hard and is unfailingly physical. But at his best he’s a solid stay at home defenseman. At his not-best, which is often, he’s not very good. Every time I watch I see him make bad outlet passes. I think his contract was a mistake.
John Scott – A good guy and very good (too good?) at his role. But pure fighters are vanishing, and the talent-starved Sabres can’t afford to have him on the ice/taking up a roster spot IMO.
Jamie McBain – I think getting rid of Sekera was a big mistake, and I don’t think McBain is very good.
Haven’t seen enough of to form an opinion
Ruhwedel, Zadorov, Larsson, Conacher, Mitchell, Stewart, Deslauriers, other recent additions or prospects I can’t remember right now. Finally, Grigorenko’s not anywhere on this list because I’m hoping the Grigorenko we saw is not the one we’ll see the next time he comes up.