In 2006 the Buffalo Sabres went on a run and made it all the way to the Eastern Conference Finals before eventually losing in seven games to the Carolina Hurricanes. The Sabres pushed the Canes to seven games despite losing four defensemen and relying on players like Jeff Jillson, Rory Fitzpatrick and Doug Janik. It wasn't the most ideal situation an the fans were up in arms about the lack of depth on the Sabres blue line.
I bring up old memories because many fans seem a bit hypocritical these days. Some of the same people that were upset with management not having enough depth are now complaining the team has too many forwards. The argument is that players like Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy are ready to make the jump and need to play in the NHL.
There is a part of me that thinks they are ready but another part of me that thinks they need more seasoning in the AHL. It doesn't matter what I think because both guys will play in the NHL this season. They probably won't start the season in Buffalo but injuries are inevitable and this team will suffer their fair share of them.
The Sabes depth chart looks pretty deep with everyone healthy before the season starts. Reality says that it won't look this way when the season starts on October 3. About half way through the season Mirtle did a post outlining the man games lost by every team and the Sabres looked pretty good at that point. That was before they lost Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller in the second half of the season.
I won't bore you with the depth chart again since nothing has changed since the last time I posted it. Here is a look at the Sabres man-games lost to injury last season.
Man-Games Lost by Forwards
- Tim Connolly - 34 games (no surprise that he is at the top of the list)
- Patrick Kaleta - 28 games (when you play like a ticking time bomb, you are bound to get injured)
- Paul Gaustad - 20 games
- Mike Grier - 20 games (obviously not with Buffalo but could effect them this season)
- Cody McCormick - 16 games + 2 games suspended
- Jochen Hecht - 12 games
- Thomas Vanek - 9 games
- Adam Mair - 7 games
- Clarke MacArthur - 3 games
That is a total of nine players that missed a total of 151 games that were missed by this years group of forwards. This will allow plenty of opportunity for the young guys to step into the lineup. This is why the Sabres have made an effort to sign some fringe players that will be a huge asset in Portland and can contribute in Buffalo if called upon.
Ready to Step In
- Tim Kennedy - Kennedy is a versatile player that has talent at both ends of the ice. He could be asked to fill a number of different roles if the need arises.
- Nathan Gerbe - A small skilled forward with great hands. Despite his size he isn't afraid to muck it up when needed. He would be called upon if a top six forward were injured.
- Cody McCormick - I'll stop short of calling him a goon because he does have some hockey skill as well. He would be called upon when the Sabres need a physical presence in the lineup.
- Jeff Cowan - He is a fan favorite everywhere he has been because of the way he plays the game. He goes all out on every shift and won't back down to anyone.
Man-Games Lost by Defense
- Craig Rivet - 18 games
- Henrik Tallinder - 13 games
- Andrej Sekera - 12 games
- Toni Lydman - 2 games
- Steve Montador - 2 games
A total of five players that spent 45 games away from the ice because of injury. This will allow an opportunity for some younger defensemen to step in as well. We all know that Chris Butler got his opportunity last year because of injury and Sekera did the same the season prior.
- Tyler Myers - Injuries won't help him make the team as much because he will sent to Juniors if he doesn't make the team out of camp.
- Mike Weber - He seems like the most likely candidate to make the jump this season. He looked good in 2007-2008 before injuries set him back last season.
Everyone would like to see players like Nathan Gerbe and Tim Kennedy succeed at the NHL level. We need to be patient with these guys and just let their progression happen naturally instead of forcing them immediately into an NHL lineup. It works for some players to jump right in but the majority of the players need some seasoning before they can make an impact at the NHL level. If they play 20 -40 games in the NHL this season they might be able to make the jump for good next season.
We should be happy that the Sabres will have some talented players that are waiting in the wings instead of being short sighted and counting the roster. Injuries happen and the Sabres are in a good place right now.