Buffalo Sabres Where Are They Now: Montreal Canadiens Edition
Montreal really liked the Sabres bottom six last season.
This is the third part of a series looking at the players Tim Murray has traded during the tank seasons of the Sabres.
The Sabres sent two depth forwards to the Montreal Canadiens at last year's trade deadline. One was an expected move, sending away a pending free agent who had been producing. The other was a bit of a surprise.
Tim Murray opened up the day by trading Brian Flynn, whose name hadn't been brought up in any trade rumors. The Sabres got a fifth-round pick back for the 26-year-old who had scored 17 points in 54 games.
Hours later the Sabres sent Torrey Mitchell packing for the small return of Jack Nevins (a player who we will likely never see in Buffalo) and a seventh-round pick.
Flynn didn't notch a point in his nine regular season games in Montreal last season, but he did make an impact in the playoffs. He had three points in six postseason contests. Mitchell was the same way. He only had one assist in 14 games but scored a goal and four assists in 12 playoff games.
Mitchell was re-signed to a three-year extension this offseason, and he looked the part at the start of the year. He scored five goals in October, all 5-on-5. He's been on a bit of a cold streak, only scoring once since then.
Flynn has four goals and six assists, already only two goals behind his previous career high.
I talked to Marc Dumont from Eyes on the Prize about how the two have played since joining the Habs.
1. Is it fair to say that both Mitchell and Flynn have exceeded their expectations?
To a certain extent. The reality is that they're fourth line players, and their impact will be minimal. Mitchell is riding an unsustainable shooting percentage, and his CF% is quickly slipping, but he's the glue that keeps the 4th line serviceable. When he was out of the lineup Montreal's bottom line struggled mightily.
Flynn, on the other hand, has had flashes of good play, but I would say he's a very replaceable player. He has the 2nd lowest CF% on the team, although his zone starts haven't exactly been easy.
Neither have blown away fans or management, but they've both provided stretches of solid play. At this exact time I would say the team relies on Mitchell, whereas Flynn is an interchangeable part.
2. Do you think they are valuable bottom-six players for the Canadiens?
I touched upon that question in my last answer, but to put it bluntly: Mitchell, yes. Flynn, not so much.
3. Montreal didn't have to give up much to land either player, just late-round picks. Were these moved viewed favorably after the deadline and has that continued this year?
The moves were seen as stop-gap measures last season, with a very low price tag. There wasn't much objection to the trades, but seeing as hysteria reigns supreme among Habs fans, there were people complaining about the acquisitions. I haven't seen much in the ways of criticism this year. Fact is the Habs are probably better off with these players, than without, especially since Montreal was hit with the injury bug this season.
4. How have the two been on the penalty kill?
Both players have been relied upon heavily in penalty kill situations, and to start the year things were going quite well. Recently, everything about the Habs is a struggle, including the penalty kill, but it's probably fair to say they've done a good job when the Habs are short a man. As is the case during even-strength play, I would say that Mitchell has been the better of the two on the PK.
5. Do you think it's beneficial to have a player like Mitchell who has some scoring ability on the fourth line?
Of course. The Habs went from a 4th line that included Travis Moen, Manny Malhotra, and various AHL level players to one that has 2 decent hockey players. A huge boost. For a big part of the year, the 4th line was providing essential offense to the team, despite their unsustainable high SH%. Mitchell and Flynn aren't game changers, but they've definitely brought some balance to the bottom line.
6. Bonus Question: No one expected anything out of former Sabre Paul Byron when the Canadiens claimed him on waivers. However, he already has eight goals. Why has he been so good?
Byron has fairly poor 5-vs-5 production, but that's to be expected considering his usage. That being said, he's been a great waiver claim. His speed is a huge asset, and he has the ability to create scoring chances during the penalty kill. The real reason he's doing "so good" is that he's shooting at 20% right now, which obviously won't last. But seeing as he doesn't hurt the team (52.89 CF%), and brings great value during the penalty kill, I would definitely say it was a smart move to pick him up, especially considering his price tag. And to think, the Flames decided Bollig had more value as a hockey player than Byron.