Buffalo Sabres Season Preview 2011-2012: The Defense
Our week long Buffalo Sabres preview continues with a look at the recently revamped defense.
The Buffalo Sabres defense has gone through a transformation in the offseason. Out of the lineup is Steve Montador, Shaone Morrisonn, and Craig Rivet. In comes Robyn Regher, Christian Ehrhoff, and Marc-Andre Gragnani.
First Paring - Tyler Myers and Robyn Regher
Tyler Myers has quickly become the leading defenseman for the Buffalo Sabres and his latest contract extension shows that the team feels that way as well. Myers signed a seven year, $38.5 million contract that will kick in after his entry level deal ends at the end of this season. The Calder Trophy winner experienced a sophomore slump to a point last season, as he finished last season with only 37 points and was even on the season in the plus/minus statistic.
His defensive partner is a 12 year veteran that is adjusting to a new team for the first time in his career. Regher has played 826 regular season games in his NHL career and has been known as a defensive defenseman throughout his career. While Regher is not going to light up the box score, pairing him with Myers will give the rookie the ability to join the rush if needed. Regher also gives Miller a solid defenseman in his zone which should help the goaltender not have to stand on his head every game.
The rest of the defensemen are after the jump.
Second Pairing - Jordon Leopold and Christian Ehrhoff
The second new defenseman signed this summer joins the Sabres leading scorer among defensemen last season. Christian Ehrhoff signed a 10 year, $40 million deal before the free agency period started after the Sabres acquired his rights from the Islanders. Ehrhoff led the Canucks defensemen with 14 goals and 50 points and finished fifth among all players on the high scoring Canucks team.
Leopold led all defensemen in goals scored last season with 13 and finished two points behind Tyler Myers with 35 points scored. A third of those goals came on the power play which may change for Leopold Ehrhoff and Myers will likely be the defensemen on the first power play unit. Leopold's eight goals at even strength was still more than any other defenseman on the team.
Having both defensemen on this line with the ability to be able to join the rush is going to make any forward line they are paired with an offensive threat. This also would mean that there could be more odd man rushes coming the other way as well.
Third Pairing - Andrej Sekera and Mike Weber
The battle among the three young defensemen last year was settled when Chris Butler was sent to Calgary as part of the Robyn Regher deal. Sekera was awarded a new 4 year, $10 million deal in the offseason while Weber was just given a two year $1.9 million deal. Both defensemen played admirably last season with Sekera scoring 26 points and was a +11 while Weber had 17 points and was a +13.
Both players know the Sabres system and will have another year of development to help them grow into solid defensemen for the Sabres. Both players could be considered more defensive rather than offensive in their style of play and will be a good pairing to take up 10-15 minute of ice time.
Lone Man Out - Marc-Andre Gragnani
Graganani was a breakout performer for the Sabres at the end of the season last year when he led the team in scoring in the playoffs with seven points. For all of that effort, Gragnani becomes a swing defenseman for the team and could very well see some time playing offense.
Gragnani led the defensemen in Portland last season with 60 points and 12 goals. A full season in the NHL will only help Gragnani's development and could help develop his scoring touch. The grinds of a full season are going to expose some of Gragnani's weaknesses as we see him play more.