Heading into this season, Andrej Sekera was touted as a top six defenseman for this team; Mike Weber was the consensus eighth defenseman due to the fact that he could be sent down; and Chris Butler was going to get groomed in the AHL. Its nice to see that they could prove us wrong.
Each of these defenders has played above and beyond what we expected out of them heading into the season. Sekera has played himself into at least a top four defender, maybe so much as top-two, Butler has played himself into the lineup probably not putting on a Pirates uniform again, and Weber has held his own while battling injuries as well.
Sekera had shown signs of being a good defender for this team, making up for the not so sad loss of Dmitri Kalinin. At this point, he has lived up to those expectations. Sekera plays an average of 22:11 per game, which leads the team in that category. Ruff's confidence in Sekera is showing as well. Sekera has a quality of opponent rating of 1.57 which is third highest on the team and is second in defenders behind Nathan Paestch.
Mike Weber played 16 games last season and could have made the team as a seventh defenseman if not for the fact that he still had waiver eligibility. Weber has been in three games this season and has held his own. In three games this season, Weber is a -2 which could be much worse. It also could be much better, Weber still needs some grooming if he is going to be a good defenseman in the NHL, but he has the talent to get there.
Chris Butler came in last year from the University of Denver. This was to be his first season playing in the next level. Butler has exceeded expectations this season after being called up from Portland. Butler is a +4 which is good for second on the team and best for defenders. Butler has played his way onto a team that will have a glut of defenders when everyone gets healthy.
The young defenders have made a name for themselves this season. With Spacek and Numminen becoming unrestricted free agents, if the Sabres had to replace them it would not be as much of a concern. I think that at least Spacek will be back on the team this season. Numminen's situation will be interesting due to the fact that he is 40 years old with a weak heart. Weber and Butler could very well be the replacements.