Kukla's Korner

The Sabres Observer

Buffalo’s Slow Defense Is Slowing The Rebuild

Are you happy with the progress of the rebuild, Sabres fans?

Buffalo (17-22-4) is on pace for 72 points, which would be 18 more than last season.

But 18 points better than one of the worst teams in NHL history isn't really as much as it seems. I was hoping for a bit more. If you've watched this group game after game for half a season, it should be pretty apparent why the jump hasn't been bigger.


I like the group of forwards on this team. Tim Murray got aggressive and built a top-6 which should be playoff-caliber when Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart get more experience. Combine those two with Ryan O'Reilly, Evander Kane, Tyler Ennis (if he isn't traded), and preferrably one more guy, and you could really have something.

But none of that will matter unless Sabres management attacks the defensive side of the roster with the same vigor as it did the offensive side this past offseason. Rasmus Ristolainen, Mark Pysyk and Jake McCabe are a good foundation, but it won't be nearly enough. 

The big problems with the rest of them? You name it.

They don't move the puck up the ice to the forwards efficiently, they're unable to clear guys out in front of their own net, they're too slow, and they don't provide enough offense to compensate for these shortcomings.

Some of the problems can be masked by getting better players and sliding a few of the current ones down the depth chart.

I'm fine with having a veteran leader like Josh Gorges on my third pair getting 14 minutes per night. I'm going to take some heat here and put Zach Bogosian in that class as well, as I think he's presently getting a bigger role with the Sabres than what he's capable of filling. Cody Franson has his moments but I just don't see a future for him here. Mike Weber is easy to root for and has the heart of a lion, but the game is too fast for him.

Now, none of this is to imply that the Sabres aren't trying to make moves. Murray reportedly wanted to add Johnny Oduya but the lefty-defenseman chose Dallas and has excelled, producing the same offense as Franson but adding a strong defensive element. The Sabres GM has also hinted in the past few weeks that he's trying to add an impact blueliner.

His job is to find a way. Buffalo needs to add two impact guys back there capable of playing quality top-4 minutes. Don't leave Robin Lehner, Linus Ullmark or whomever your future number one goalie is, out to dry. The whole point of accumulating excess draft picks and prospects during the tear-down was for situations like this.

You can add a strong defensive corps to your young and talented offense and be like Chicago, or you can be unsuccessful at it and be like Edmonton. If there's a deal out there, take the plunge.


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About The Sabres Observer

Dave Davis has covered the Buffalo Sabres for various NHL accredited websites and newspapers since 2003.  He was the senior writer and Sabres correspondent for The Fourth Period, covered hockey for Western New York Sports and Leisure Magazine, and has had articles featured on NHL.com, FOX Sports, Yahoo Sports and in New York Sportscene.  Sabres news and notes can be found on his Twitter page.

2014-15 NHL Reverse Standings


Email: dd@kuklaskorner.com Twitter: [@DaveDavisHockey]

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