Buffalo Sabres season preview: The Blueline

This is part two of a series previewing the Buffalo Sabres 2011-12 season. Part two focuses on the defense. Read part one here.

A handful of factors aided Ryan Miller in his Vezina winning season. Tyler Myers’ emergence as a force and his chemistry with Henrik Tallinder created a true lockdown pairing. In addition, Toni Lydman and Steve Montador offered a sound veteran presence to the bottom four that included Chris Butler, Craig Rivet and Andrej Sekera. Add Miller’s exceptional play over the course of the season and it is fairly obvious why he and the Sabres were so successful.

The 2010-11 season was a down season for the Sabres blueline as a whole. The departure of Tallinder and Lydman were filled by Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn and Mike Weber. An overall average season was capped with the departure of Butler (trade), Montador (trade/UFA) and Rivet (waived). Due, in part, to Terry Pegula’s deep pockets, the Sabres blueline underwent a major overhaul as they enter the 2011-12 season. Continue reading

Sabres re-sign Gragnani and add to AHL depth

Nearly a strong month of silence from One Seymour H Knox III Plaza was ended this week when the Buffalo Sabres announced a trio of new signings.

The final signing, a one-year deal for Marc-Andre Gragnani, is the most important of the three. The Sabres no longer have any players left without a contract after Gragnani agreed to terms. Earlier in the week Buffalo came to terms on one-year contracts for Mike Ryan and Paul Szezechura. Both will play in Rochester this season.

The acquisition of Ryan and Szezechura was a good move by the team as the Amerks were in desperate need of help at forward, particularly at center. Szezechura is a natural center and Ryan will likely allow for Matt Ellis to serve as a pivot as well. Both players are capable of putting up numbers at the AHL level in addition to having some NHL experience. Strong marks to Darcy Regier for finding two strong veterans for the Americans. Continue reading

Goose and Grags at the Worlds, Aces back to Portland

Since the Buffalo Sabres’ departure from the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs their players have dispersed to various locations. The “Black Aces” like Jhonas Enroth and Mark Mancari have been sent back to Portland to help with their playoff run. Meanwhile, Marc-Andre Gragnani and Paul Gaustad accepted invitations to represent their countries in the IIHF World Championships.

Gaustad recently joined Team USA for yesterday’s 4-2 win over Norway. Gaustad logged two penalty minutes and was given an ‘A’. It should be interesting to see if Gaustad’s time with the US will help him gain some additional experience against the best in the world and in clutch situations. Having another player with big-game experience will be huge moving forward. Continue reading