Questionable Lineup Choices Plague Sabres

The Sabres’ drama du jour has been all about Jeff Skinner and it doesn’t show any signs of ending as the team trudges towards another season without playoffs.

Skinner’s usage has been a focal point for going on two years now as the winger has bounced around the lineup but has rarely found himself in the spot most fans want him to be; playing beside Jack Eichel. His lack of playing in overtime, on the power play exacerbate the questions being asked about his contract, his influence on the roster and his relationship with Ralph Krueger.

This has all come to a head with three-straight scratches of one of the league’s best even strength scorers over the last decade. Lance Lysowski of The Buffalo News wrote an excellent piece on the Skinner situation and his agent’s call to Kevyn Adams that should be required reading for anyone thinking Skinner deserves to remain out of the lineup. Lance’s article lays out the statistical evidence that backs up just how bizarre it is that Skinner has been scratched the last three games. Continue reading

Lack of Offense in Opener Feels all too Familiar

Give the Sabres credit, they’ve gotten good at stamping out any glimmer of hope.

The Sabres entered their home opener in 2017 with 10 new faces and came away from the season-opening loss with a positive outlook that things were about to change. They played a fast game and even in a losing effort, looked like they were going to be a different club than in years past. What followed was anything but. The Sabres were disjointed, more often than not they were slow and their play was accurately reflected in the standings.

Despite another summer filled with roster turnover last night’s premier was more of the same from the Sabres. They passed up far too many shots and looked downright confused in the offensive zone at times. Defensive lapses resulted in three goals and the Bruins never looked truly challenged in the 4-0 win. Continue reading

Mike Weber inserted into lineup, will skate with Regehr

In addition to Ville Leino’s shift to center on Buffalo’s top line, the Sabres will have another lineup change this evening against Philadelphia.

Mike Weber will indeed be inserted in the Sabres’ lineup and will skate with Robyn Regehr, this according to Bill Hoppe. Tyler Myers will skate with Andrej Sekera, reuniting a pair that saw quite a bit of time with one another last season. Marc-Andre Gragnani will be the defenseman who is scratched this evening.

Inserting Weber was likely an easy choice. Not only was Marc-Andre Gragnani not getting results on the power play – the main reason for which he was dressed – but he was also just terrible in his own zone. While Weber won’t man a power play point he will bring plenty of stability to the Buffalo blueline. That stability will hopefully cut down the massive number of shots the Sabres have been allowing lately.

While the issue of allowing countless shots on goal has plagued the Sabres, the only potential solution to the problem – establishing a more responsible in-zone presence – hadn’t been addressed. Dressing Weber addresses the problem. Having Weber skate with the veteran keeps Regehr on a true lockdown pair but adds even more toughness with the addition of Weber.

Moving Myers from the top pairing is somewhat perplexing only because he has been good in his zone with Regehr. While he has had some errant outlet passes, his overall defensive game has been sound. Perhaps Ruff saw too much defense and not enough offense from Myers. Ruff has mentioned he wants to see more offense out of Myers, perhaps in a role where he is “carrying” the pairing Myers will be more apt to lug the puck. That isn’t to say Sekera is chopped liver – he has actually been Buffalo’s best defenseman for most of the year – but based on Myers style of play and their chemistry last year, Sekera may serve as the best partner for Myers for the time being.

How long these pairs last is anyone’s guess. They could remain the same for much of the season, or be changed after one period, that is just how Lindy Ruff operates. Regardless, by limiting the number of offense-first players on the blueline, the Sabres should see positive results from the move.

Ennis to miss time, Leino to step in on wing

The ankle injury suffered by Tyler Ennis on Saturday has been deemed as a “week-to-week” injury for the winger. His absence from the lineup caused some significant shuffling at practice for the Sabres today.

Paul Gaustad also sat out with what was described as a “maintenance day”. He was replaced by Matt Ellis for the day. The only concerning part of Gaustad’s day off is that he has had a pair of maintenance days in the past week. Not a great sign for a guy with an injury history.

Ennis’ hole in the lineup is far more defined by any time Gaustad may, or may not, miss. With the young winger out for what will likely amount to two weeks Ville Leino will fill his role on the wing with Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. It actually appears as if Leino requested to be moved back to the wing.

This is actually a move that could not only benefit Leino, but the Sabres’ second line. While the Vanek-Adam-Pominville line continues to put up points like it is going out of style (15 In seven games), the remaining six forwards to have tallied points have accounted for only seven goals and seventeen points over that same span. Continue reading

The odd men out

Mike Weber was particularly good for the Buffalo Sabres last season. So good, in fact, he earned a two-year contract extension in the offseason.

Yet, he is stuck in the press box as the season begins for the second year in a row. Lindy Ruff has opted to dress Marc-Andre Gragnani and Andrej Sekera as his fifth and sixth defensemen over the stay-at-home defenseman. In previous seasons all three players would be seeing regular shifts. In fact, Drew Schiestel would probably be seeing some time as well. That was all in the past, life with Terry is much better.

Now the deep-pocketed Sabres are stuffing salary in the minors and stockpiling blue-chip prospects as they strive for a Cup with veteran additions. Mike Weber just happens to be a casualty in this particular scenario. Continue reading