Thursday, April 16, 2009

Grading the Sabres: Defensemen

by Anne

I've decided that I don't want to just bury the season and forget about it. Instead, I've decided to grade each player based solely on how I feel they performed this season.

Next up are the defensemen. I'm grading all the defenseman that played in at least 40 games meaning Gragnani and Weber are excluded.

Keep in mind that these grades are grading how well the player filled their role as it seems to have been defined for them from this fan's perspective.

Here they are, in numerical order:

Toni Lydman

80 games, 3-20-23, 70 PIM, Even
Hits: 165
Blocked shots: 166
#1 on the team in both above categories
Average TOI: 21:46

Lydman played a lot of minutes for the Sabres and turned in an OK season. He took a lot of untimely penalties, the majority of which were not the types of penalties that one takes to stop a player on a breakaway, they were mostly sloppy hooking and holding penalties. He redeemed himself slightly with his ridiculous shootout game-winning goal against Montreal. He was fine, he wasn't our best defenseman, but he wasn't the worst. He played a pretty physical game, throwing a lot of hits and blocking a lot of shots and played the most short handed time of any defenseman and our PK had some swagger for most of the season.

Anne's Grade: B

Jaroslav Spacek

80 games, 8-37-45, 38 PIM, +2
Blocked shots: 126
Average TOI: 22:16
#1 on team in icetime
#1 scoring defenseman

Spacek had a strong season without too many obvious problems. He lead the defense in offensive output by a lot. He had 21 points more than the next highest defenseman. He manned the point on the power play decently with Pommer and was one of the best Sabres in his own zone. He's a UFA this summer and I hope desperately that we'll re-sign him. That and he's just about the only player who wore an "A" this season that I think should wear it next season (assuming Teppo retires). Also, he brought us the pigeon. What more does one need to know? He tied a career high in points and set a new career high in assists.

Anne's Grade: A-

Henrik Tallinder

66 games, 1-11-12, 36 PIM, -2
Average TOI: 18:46

Tallinder had a forgettable season that consisted of a few too many horrifying turnovers and earned him some time in the press box. He was fairly sloppy this season. However, he played a lot of minutes on the penalty kill which was pretty good throughout most of the season, so for that he slightly redeems some of his not so good 5 on 5 play. Offense is obviously not his game but he only registered 35 shots throughout his entire 66 games. Just put it on net and see what happens, Hank! He doesn't play a very physical game. When he's paired with Toni, who does play a physical game, it would be nice if Hank could try to be little better with getting the puck into the other team's zone without turning it over at the blueline and allowing point blank shots on Ryan Miller that he isn't prepared for at all. He was better in the previous three seasons.

Anne's Grade: C

Teppo Numminen

57 games, 2-15-17, 22 PIM, -4
Average TOI: 17:30

Teppo Numminen is 40 years old, had open heart surgery and has played in more NHL games than any other European trained player. He is above my petty grades and observations. He will probably retire and I think its probably for the best. Even if he does retire, he's made it perfectly clear that Buffalo is his home, whether he is a Buffalo Sabre of the present or the past. But, I shall grade him nonetheless

Anne's Grade: B-

Chris Butler

47 games, 2-4-6, 18 PIM +11
Average TOI: 16:43
#1 in defensemen in +/-

Butts turned a three game December call-up into a great rookie campaign. There were a few terrifyingly bad rookie mistakes that drew the ire of Sabres fans and writers alike, but he more than redeemed himself down the stretch. Being paired with Rivet and sometimes with Numminen has probably done wonders for his career. You could tell Rivs was rubbing off on Butler because, at times, Butler the rookie was the one in the crease making sure that the opposing team didn't sneak in any extra whacks with their sticks on Miller. He was one of precious few Sabres that exceeded expectations and he impressed coaching and management so much that his three game call-up became 47 games as a top 6 defenseman. I look forward to what he has to offer in the future.

Anne's Grade: A-

Andrej Sekera

69 games, 3-16-19, 22 PIM -11
Average TOI: 20:42

Reggie went through some seriously terrifyingly bad stretches this season and never really went through any stretches of brilliance. He had the usual sophomore growing pains of his first full season in the big show and it showed. He was touted early on in the season as our top puck moving defenseman but never came close to living up to that expectation. He pinched a few more times than he should have and he was a healthy scratch a few times in the hopes of shaking the cobwebs out. We needed and expected him to be better this season.

Anne's Grade: C

Craig Rivet

64 games 2-22-24, 125 PIM, +4
Average TOI: 20:14
#1 on team in PIM

Rivs brought a phyiscal presence whenever he was on the ice, which unfortunately he was not for 18 games this season. For many of the games he was playing before having knee surgery, he was playing hurt, and not many players play their best physical game when they're playing hurt. Also, when he and Paul Gaustad and Adam Mair weren't on the ice, and some times even Chris Butler, there was pretty much no one standing up for people creeping up on Miller's crease. I mean, every team clusters around the goal crease, but there wasn't really anyone else who took serious exception to it. By his personal standards, Rivs didn't have the best season offensively and, as a right handed shot, one of the precious few we have on our team, we could've used a little more offense from him. He lead the team in penalty minutes and won most of his fights handily. I'm not grading him as a captain, I'm grading him as a defenseman, keep that in mind.

Anne's Grade: B+

I didn't grade Nathan Paetsch because he only played in 23 games. If I were to grade him, he would be an incomplete.

Overall, this averages to a B-. The defense allowed more shots per game this season. Last year it was 28.4, this year, 31.4. That's a lot of shots. Fortunately most of the time our goaltender was on his game... when he wasn't hurt... and we managed to actually have a lower total goals against... no thanks to our defense. There weren't as many injuries to our blueline this season which makes this season even sadder. With the exception of a brief stretch in late 2008, we had at least 6 healthy defensemen for most of the season... and we still ended the season in exactly the same spot. The grade of B- seems oddly generous.

Fun Fact: We are waayyy better against our own division than against other divisions. Problem with scouting? Not getting prepared enough for these out of division and out of conference games? Coaching issue? I'm not sayin', I'm just sayin'.

These are just my grades, what are your grades? Think I'm dead on? Way off the mark? Leave your thoughts in the comments.

Next Up: Goaltending


  1. Again, these grades are pretty spot on, Anne. Nice work!

    That one kid next to Buts looks like a mini!version of Grizz. To me anyways.

  2. Can we also factor in Reggie's terrible fashion sense into his grade? Rooming with Derek has obviously done him no favors...

  3. MK, clearly the REAL hockey expert of the familyApril 17, 2009 at 1:39 AM

    My thoughts:

    Spacek should get an A+++++++++++++++.

    I'll always love Tallinder for his sweetass shootout goal next year, but this year he sucked, so if he leaves I'll be ok with it.

    Lyd = Lood

    I get all these people confused: Matt Ellis, Chris Butler, Mark Mancari. To me, they are the same person. Maybe Paesch too. If Gerbe wasn't so short I'd probably add him to that list too.

    I have spoken.


Glossary... Sort of

  • "Ryan Miller" Shutout - A 58 minute multi-goal shutout lead that is blown by Miller allowing one meaningless goal
  • Britney or SabreBritney - Thomas Vanek
  • Butter Snaps - Carolina Hurricanes
  • Craigory - Craig Rivet
  • Full Monty - Steve Montador
  • Greener - MATT Greene (LAK)
  • JBG - Jolly Blonde Giant - Tyler Myers
  • Little Foot - Drew Stafford
  • MK - Anne's sister; often leaves nonsensical comments under her Twitter name Mmmkizzle
  • Noodles - Derek Whitmore
  • Oscar - Anne's cat and STH's unofficial mascot
  • Parsley - Jimmy Bonneau
  • Sir Christopher - Chris Butler
  • Sissy - Jaroslav Spacek
  • Telly Monster - Mikael Tellqvist

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