Mike Weber was particularly good for the Buffalo Sabres last season. So good, in fact, he earned a two-year contract extension in the offseason.
Yet, he is stuck in the press box as the season begins for the second year in a row. Lindy Ruff has opted to dress Marc-Andre Gragnani and Andrej Sekera as his fifth and sixth defensemen over the stay-at-home defenseman. In previous seasons all three players would be seeing regular shifts. In fact, Drew Schiestel would probably be seeing some time as well. That was all in the past, life with Terry is much better.
Now the deep-pocketed Sabres are stuffing salary in the minors and stockpiling blue-chip prospects as they strive for a Cup with veteran additions. Mike Weber just happens to be a casualty in this particular scenario.
I have little doubt that Weber will see time in the near future. Back-to-back games and matchups with teams where more defense is required will certainly be times that he is called upon. However, the offensive muscle the Sabres can flex by dressing four – maybe even five – offensive minded defensemen is unparalleled. There is no need to station a forward on the power play point, although there are wingers to spare, and there is no worry that the second unit will have a substandard quarterback on the blueline.
Jochen Hecht also may be lost in the shuffle for the time being. Although I feel he may only sit until the Sabres lose a game. Ruff has never been one to change a winning line up. Hecht will likely settle into a spot on the third or fourth line, riding the left wing with either Derek Roy or Paul Gaustad. I think I like his ability as a checker better than as a scorer, my vote is to skate him with Gaustad and Pat Kaleta or Cody McCormick for the time being.
What is encouraging is that the Sabres have a roster full of players capable of contributing in a big way. The acquisitions of Christian Ehrhoff, Ville Leino and Robyn Regehr is becoming over analyzed. Still, the ability to sign those players means that Buffalo is no longer in the business of developing and selling – or losing at auction. Rather than play the role of the Kansas City Royals, Buffalo now has a veritable arsenal on their hands as they attempt to make a deep playoff run.
Surely many Sabres fans will expect 60 wins, four sweeps and a Stanley Cup this season. I preach some patience from those masses. Really from all Sabres fans, but particularly the ones who seem to think every goal is weak and that Thomas Vanek should score three every game.
The cupboards are full between Buffalo and Rochester and there is more help on the way. Between this organization’s brilliant drafting and their rich new dad there is little doubt that they will have the tools to assemble the right roster to win. And I can assure those with short patience that it won’t be long until they’re knocking on the door of the Cup Finals.
There will be players like Weber along the way. There is also the inevitable slump that Sekera will encounter this season, or a scoring drought from a winger like Hecht or Brad Boyes. That will open the door for different faces like Weber. If history acts as a barometer, Weber won’t give up his spot once he is in the lineup.