Grading the Sabres: Final defensive group

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.

Mike Weber – C+

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. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres outclassed in loss to Wings

The Detroit Red Wings strolled into First Niagara Center and showed the Buffalo Sabres where they stood in every facet of the game.

By the end of the game it seemed pretty clear that the Sabres are a long way from being in the same class as the Wings – at least after yesterday’s effort.

Buffalo fell behind 3-0 after 15 minutes of play and didn’t break Jimmy Howard’s shutout until the final seven minutes of the game. Once again, the Sabres only managed to score one goal, the third such occurrence in their last five games.

The primary culprit to the Sabres woes were giveaways. Buffalo tries to pride itself on being a puck possession team, as do the Wings. The Wings were the only puck possession team last night. Detroit controlled the play leading to their first goal, their power play deposited their second and a brutal giveaway by Jochen Hecht led to the third. Even the empty net goal was caused by a sloppy play in the offensive zone.

Hecht was the lone goal scorer for the second-straight game. He roofed a two-on-one chance that capped a pretty nice passing play between Ville Leino, Jason Pominville and Hecht. There wasn’t too much offense beyond that play.

Defensively the Sabres seemed outmatched by the deeper, more talented Red Wings. Jhonas Enroth had a shaky outing, although he settled in during the second and third periods. It should be interesting to see if Ryan Miller does get the start in Nashville tonight.

  • Joe Finley didn’t see too much ice – 7:51 to be exact. Pat Kaleta was the only Sabre to see fewer minutes and that was because the gritty winger re-aggravated his groin injury. Finley, touted as a strong skater, looked sluggish and a bit over his head. Obviously you can’t draw much from a single game, but Finley’s debut was less than impressive.
  • Brayden McNabb is still playing good hockey. Two more hits and 18 minutes for the youngster. He seems to be coming around just fine.
  • Enroth really started the year on a tear, he hasn’t been super human since taking over the starting role. While Ryan Miller wasn’t brilliant in the games before his injury, it will be good to get him back in net. Having a pair of reliable goalies will likely do wonders for the psyche of this team.
  • Lindy Ruff will probably be shuffling his lines soon. Scoring one goal in three of their last four games is a serious problem, he needs to find a way to get his scorers going. Roy, Stafford and Vanek have been very quiet lately and that trend needs to stop.
  • Zack Kassian wasn’t horrible. He was -1 again, but he has shown he is going to be a capable NHLer when he gets a permanent spot. All of these injuries will keep him up for the foreseeable future, but you can tell he hasn’t reached that extra gear just yet. .

Three Stars

1. Johan Franzen

2. Jimmy Howard

3. Valterri Filppula

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Game Summary

Event Summary

Sabres call up Finley, get meaner on the blueline

The enormous bottles aren't that noticeable in your hands, especially when you're 6'8".

The Sabres started the year with far too many wingers and a plethora of offensive defensemen. While the lack of centers and overabundance of wingers remains a fringe issue, the blueline has gotten a sudden dose of nasty.

In light of Jordan Leopold’s upper body injury, suffered yesterday against the Islanders, the Sabres have called up Joe Finley from the AHL.

Finley was a training camp invitee who had a strong showing in camp before signing a minor-league deal with the Amerks. Since then the former Capitals first round pick (27th overall in the 2005 Crosby draft) has blown up. By all accounts he has been a rock on the blueline and a steady shutdown force. He was rewarded with a two-way deal earlier this week.

Did I mention he is 6’8” and 260 pounds? No? Well now I did.

I was a fan of Finley back when he played at North Dakota. He is a big, nasty guy who is a shutdown defender. Just the type of attitude the Sabres need. Calling him up for Friday is kind of a risky move. The guy has gone through some tough times due to injuries before blossoming with the Sabres organization. I would hate to see him rushed along too fast only to halt the progress he has made to this point.

Considering the impressive NHL debut T.J. Brennan made last week, Finley must be showing considerable promise in the AHL. For a strong-skating big man with a serious mean streak, Finley has promise. He also has yet to see the NHL and has had a tumultuous journey to this point. Finley’s NHL debut shouldn’t be overly scrutinized, just be excited if he shows the ability to fit in at this level.