With training camp less than a month away, and the Buffalo Sabres roster looking pretty much set, I thought now would be a good time to investigate the lines and defense pairings for the coming season. Starting up front:
Ennis – Connolly – Pominville
Vanek – Roy – Stafford/McCormick?
Gerbe – Gaustad – Kaleta
Hecht – Niedermayer – Grier
It’s an odd mix of diminutive players and size/grit, to be sure. Zack Kassian could make things interesting when he’s off his time-out from GMDR and gets to sign. I’m not sure what happens if McCormick gets one of the RW spots, Stafford really is the only one that can come out. I don’t think you play anybody out of position to try and keep him in the lineup. Gerbe, I suppose, could end up on the fourth line if Lindy wants to keep Hecht up on the third, though my hope is with cagey vets like Grier and Niedermayer taking over the fourth line will get more than 6 minutes a night. It’s a lineup that has some scoring potential, but should help out the revamped defense core quite a bit as well. Speaking of:
Myers (RH) – Morrisonn (LH)
Montador (RH) – Leopold (LH)
Rivet (RH) – Sekera (LH)
Obviously Myers is the top dog, and I slotted Morrisonn next to him as he’s another more stay at home type as Tallinder was for Tyler last year. You get a similar Off/Def pair with Montador/Leopold, leaving Rivet and his bad shoulder to mentor Sekera and Butler in the third pair. This keeps the left hand/right hand balance, and keeps Rivet healthier so he can bulldoze some guys in front of Miller. If Leopold can chip in points to balance the Myers pairing, the offense from the backend will be right where it needs to be. Now, Morrisonn may not fit in as a first pair guy which blows all this up but I think this works the best.
I don’t HAVE to go over the goalies, do I? Miller gets more work than we like (without the Olympics thankfully), especially considering the TWENTY TWO back to back game situations. Does Lalime get 15 games? Lalime and Enroth combined for 14 starts last year, I’d like to see that at 20 with all the back to backs but I can’t predict it.
Look, it’s not the wholesale changes in the top 6 we were looking for, but as we’ve investigated before, there aren’t a lot of guys available who are a for-sure improvement. Stempniak might be a one-hit wonder, and there’s that self-imposed cap…