The final group of defensive grades will also be the final portion of the Sabres’ report cards. This group includes the three players called up from Rochester at various points during the season.
Weber was slightly less consistent that he had been in previous seasons. His best hockey was played with somewhat limited minutes as compared to games when he was given a heavier dose of ice time. While he was a decided upgrade over Marc-Andre Gragnani, he was little more than an adequate sixth defenseman. Overall, his year was little more than average. Considering the role he fills, you can’t complain too much about what he brought to the table. However, there is likely room for improvement that could come in the form of another player.
Alexander Sulzer – B+
Sulzer’s time with the Sabres was somewhat brief, but he was solid in those few games. A mobile defenseman, Sulzer showed he has a nice physical side to his game while not being a pylon. His athleticism might be what is most impressive to me. While he is a UFA this summer, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him re-signed. Considering he was basically a throw in with Cody Hodgson, discovering him could be a major steal for Darcy Regier and the Sabres.
Brayden McNabb – B+
McNabb still needs to stew a little longer in the minors. However, I don’t think that he will need to start the season in Rochester next season. In fact, if he continues to progress over the summer, I have little doubt he will find a spot in the top six.
McNabb is physical and has shown he can contribute offensively. Some of the traits he possesses makes him a very interesting player for the Sabres going forward. He could definitely be a cornerstone for the Sabres defense for a long time.
T.J. Brennan – C+
Brennan was good, not great, in the few games he played this season. He certainly has an offensive flair to his game and isn’t shy about being physical. However, I don’t know if his ability in the defensive zone makes him a long-term viable option.
I could see him filling the gap while a guy like Mark Pysyk continues to develop. I don’t know if he will be in the show long, but he does have the skill set to be a fifth or sixth defenseman.
Joe Finley – C+
Finley needs to improve his skating before being a truly viable option. However, he showed some serious ability in his few games in the NHL this season. First of all, kudos on the Sabres for deciding to sign him. I think he could eventually be a consistent defenseman filling spots four through six. Think Hal Gill.
This year was one where he finally played a full season and the playing time certainly helped him along. He wasn’t too great in those few games, but his toughness and mean streak were evident. Considering the Sabres could use a little more grit, he is a valuable piece of the puzzle moving forward.