Questions linger with crowded house on blueline

Ever since Doug Janik and Rory Fitzpatrick took the ice for game seven of the 2006 Eastern Conference Finals, defensive depth has been a focal point of how the Buffalo Sabres have been built.

The 2013-14 season will be no exception as the Sabres are heading to training camp with ten (TEN!) defensemen who will be battling for a spot on Buffalo’s NHL roster. For a team who struggled to find consistency on the back end last season, the plethora of rear guards on the roster isn’t a bad thing.

Of the ten defensemen I count as NHL ready, a few have all but sealed their spot on the roster entering the season. Christian Ehrhoff, Tyler Myers and Mike Weber are all a sure thing to have an NHL job this season and newly acquired Henrik Tallinder should join them.

Where things get interesting is filling out the remaining three or four spots for the team. It’s particularly fascinating when you consider Rasmus Ristolainen as one of the players jockeying for a spot. Continue reading

Sabres taking shape as free agency looms

There wasn’t much noise coming from First Niagara Center for most of June as Darcy Regier, Ron Rolston and company did their work without much outside contact.

Then came Sunday’s draft and the wheels were quickly put in motion as Regier began to shape his vision for Buffalo’s rebuilding process. Shortly thereafter, Joe Sacco was brought on as an assistant for Ron Rolston’s staff and the free agent courting process has officially begun.

Looking at the entire draft, there is very little to be upset about. Regier not only addressed an organizational desire for size and grit, he did so on the blueline. Rasmus Ristolainen is expected to be NHL ready which would make the bounty gained in Newark that much more impressive.

Outside of the two big defensemen, Regier scooped up plenty of offensive talent in rounds two through seven and stocked his cupboards well moving forward. But it’s the change that has come to the main roster that has caught my attention.

Regier is in full rebuild mode these days. By trading out Andrej Sekera for Jamie McBain (and the pick that became JT Compher) he shipped out a valuable commodity who contributed well last season. He also unloaded a player who probably could have used a fresh start on a new team which winds up being a win-win in my book.

Moving Sekera, to me, made sense. He had plenty of market value and should have been able to bring a strong return. Allegedly he was valuable enough to get the Sabres to the fifth overall pick, but Regier opted to bring in the extra pick along with McBain as opposed to just moving up three spots.

Give him credit for finding full value there. It seems as if Ristolainen was on top of Buffalo’s board after the big four prospects and with none of those players falling out of the top four, there was no reason to reach for their Finnish defenseman. In doing so, Regier still came away with Ristolainen while also snagging McBain and Compher. Once again, give him credit for getting full value.

The McBain acquisition was followed today by the buyout of Nathan Gerbe. While the move surprised many, it was a smart choice and will serve as a way to clear some additional space for those prospects who are making their way up the pipeline. Continue reading