Last season, the Buffalo Sabres defense was mostly a terrible, terrible mess, which thankfully also contained a few bright spots - notably in the form of Mark Pysyk, Rasmus Ristolainen, and a small resurgence from Tyler Myers. Through four games this season, it seems that a few of the team's horrible blueliners from last year were replaced with newer, equally horrible blueliners this year in the form of Andrej Meszaros and Andre Benoit.
Meszaros and Benoit are stepping into the tiny skates of Henrik Tallinder and Jamie McBain, so the expectations aren't very high to begin with - like, just don't injure our goalies every other game and you're good. But as small as those expectations are, so far these two free agents have yet to live up to them - Meszaros is a depressing -6 through three games, putting him on pace for a -164 season, while Benoit has thus far been a penalty-per-game player and sports a -4 through four games to boot.
Not exactly what Buffalo had in mind when they brought in two veteran defensemen from playoff teams last season.
But fear not, Sabres fans, for lo, there are two defenders on your team who are rising above the sea of hot garbage around them and actually playing well in big minutes - the top pairing of Tyler Myers and Josh Gorges.
Myers showed last season that he could still play at a high level when he had a strong veteran presence to help even out his rough patches. Enter Gorges, who has been a pleasant surprise in his role as a top pairing guy, holding his own against tough competition. For a better idea of how well these two have played relative to their teammates, check out this chart from War on Ice:
See those two dark blue dots in the upper left-hand corner? That's Myers and Gorges, going up against the toughest competition on the other team, with the fewest percentage of offensive zone starts, and sporting the best Fenwick number not only among defensemen, but on the whole stinkin' team.
While both of them are currently pointless (in terms of scoring) they've been incredibly successful at keeping the other team off the scoreboard themselves, something at which the Sabres other blueliners have failed miserably - and they're doing it while putting up big minutes. In fact, Myers has put up his strong numbers while averaging 26:24 TOI per night, good for eighth in the league and putting him in the company of guys named Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, and Drew Doughty in terms of playing time.
Now before you go yelling at Tim Murray for putting Myers' name on the trade block, remember that the big man's biggest weakness over the course of his career has been consistency. While his start has been great (and in stark comparisons to seasons past) it remains to be seen whether he's finally turned the corner and can be a franchise(?) defensemen, or whether this is just another hot streak in a streaky career.
For now, though, Ted Nolan should continue to trot these two out as often as possible. He may not believe in fancy numbers, but anybody with eyeballs who's watched the Sabres this season knows - Myers and Gorges have been by far the team's best.