It is a shame that so many people refer to Buffalo as a “hockey town”. Reason being, there are a TON of ignorant fans out there.
After watching Jhonas Enroth play a strong game against Montreal on Tuesday every jackass with a keyboard or a telephone was voicing their support of Enroth over Miller. I guess they fail to see the glaring weaknesses in the kid’s game, or the fact that Ryan Miller remains a top-10 goalie in this league.
I should note that I am not a proponent of the “build from the net out” school of thinking. Yes, I am a goalie. Yes, I am a big fan of the Sabres and Canucks (who both have adopted said strategy). The Canucks have a truly complete roster, so it is hard to rope them into this conversation. However, when the cornerstone of your franchise is wearing the pads on a nightly basis, you cannot just toss him aside after one poor game in 31-straight starts. I touched on the fact that Miller is having a tough season, I would attribute it to three things; his early season injuries, spotty play in the defensive zone and the lack of a backup who can effectively play the position.
As this relates to Enroth; he was drafted in 2006, one year before Ryan Miller truly asserted himself as the goalie of the future. Miller’s play in the subsequent years has cemented his role and legacy with this team. In my opinion, Enroth became expendable. I think that remains true to this day. I will say he has the ability to be a 1A or 1B type of guy. I will also say that Ryan Miller would thrive in that type of system. However, that is not the ship the Sabres are sailing in, that is why I think it would be wise to move Enroth to a team that could use him. A team like the Sharks or Avalanche come to mind immediately.
If there was a way to send Enroth out to the coast in some sort of package that would return a quality player, plus Antero Nittymaki, I would be thrilled. Nittymaki is the type of keeper who could give Miller the necessary breaks during the year, allowing Miller to see 50-60 games, a perfect cocktail for success.
The reason I want to see Enroth moved is two-fold. First, he has slow hands and is too short to be a successful NHL goalie. He plays a very similar style to Henrik Lundqvist but he doesn’t have King Hank’s size. He does share the sad characteristic of dropping his blocker and glove early and leaving them on his pads. That is something that will need to be remedied. The other reason is because there are additional goalies in the Sabres system and Enroth is expendable and can bring a great return.
David Leggio has proven that he is a quality AHL goaltender who is likely capable of playing in an emergency in the NHL. It is more than obvious that the NHL has passed by Patty Lalime in terms of speed and skill. Connor Knapp is a monster and under the tutelage of Jimmy Corsi, he could be the real deal. Nick Eno probably will never factor into a goaltending debate in Buffalo, but his name is still out there.
Here is the scenario as I see it:
- Ryan Miller is the goaltender of the future and the Sabres will need him when they make their eventual Cup run.
- Patrick Lalime does nothing more than advertise that goal touque and hold the end of the bench down. Meanwhile, Enroth is having a strong season in Portland while Leggio is having a breakout year and turning some heads.
- Connor Knapp and Nick Eno do not have much time left in school and a decision will need to be made on them sooner rather than later.
- Enroth can fetch a pretty price on the trade market. Meanwhile, there are goaltenders that will be available at the deadline and in the summer.
- The Sabres have a bunch of must win games coming up with some against Western Conference teams.
Here is my solution:
- Call up Enroth for the duration of the season, send Lalime down – no one will claim him, I will bet the house on that one.
- Allow Enroth to play a few games prior to the deadline to spell Miller and showcase Enroth to the league.
- Acquire a new veteran backup at the deadline while dealing Enroth in a package (or alone) to a team in need for a strong return. It is key that trade is not just for a rental but a piece that will contribute this season and down the line. I mean a Joffery Lupul/Mike Fisher type situation.
- Allow Lalime to play out his contract in the minors this season and move Connor Knapp into the goalie tandem in Portland with Leggio for the foreseeable future.
It doesn’t seem to be all that crazy and it doesn’t seem like it would be that difficult to pull off. The best part about keeping Enroth up with the big club will be the pressure he gives Miller in terms of playing time. If that means you put the brakes on that move until the summer, so be it.
No matter how you split it, Enroth’s future is not with the Sabres and I seriously question how bright it will be elsewhere. Let us just hope other scouts don’t feel the same way.