On May 13, 2006, during the first overtime of game 5, Jason Pominville sped past Daniel Alfredsson while Jay McKee was in the penalty box, and scored on Ray Emery to send the Sabres into the Eastern Conference Finals. However, disaster loomed for the Sabres, as 4 of Buffalo's 6 starting defensemen would become injured during that the series against Carolina.
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Now, I'm not one to say that Buffalo would have beaten Carolina, or even gone on to win the Cup against Edmonton. However, it's not a stretch to imagine it. Even with only two regular starting defensemen, Buffalo won game 6, and kept game 7 close until the third period. However, in exchange, you can't wonder whether this contributes to Buffalo's urge to pick up d-men.
Right now, Buffalo has 8 defensemen under contract, pending whether or not the Sabres keep Adrej Sekera. Right now, the Sabres depth @ defense gives anyone from Buffalo the opportunity to relax with the idea of that if anyone goes down, there are numerous options for who can step up. Also, this gives Buffalo the option of having some trade options in the future. Unfortunately, the offense catches the short end of the stick.
The perk of the depth Buffalo has with defensemen right now is that 7 of the d-men under contract have NHL experience. Weber has played in some games, but not nearly as many as his counterparts. No extremely inexperienced players will step in. As for offense, players will have to step in who have minimal experience playing at the NHL level. Players like Gerbe, Kassian, and Kennedy need more time in the Portland. Very few players can make that jump so quickly into the NHL.
The best example of this is the lock out year for the Sabres. Buffalo took extreme lengths to make sure Roy, Vanek, and Miller would not play in 50 NHL games during the 2003-2004 season. That way, during the lock-out, they could play in Rochester for the entire season. The Amerk's lineup for 04-05 was stellar, and paved the way for the Sabres 05-06 season, and eventually for the historic 06-07 season. However, if someone is thrown into the NHL before they are ready, the team may suffer because of it. Buffalo has been known for the years as having a great farm system for developing players, and getting them into the NHL. I say Buffalo uses it, but doesn't waste this season in the process.
Players like Brennan, Gerbe, Kennedy, and Myers have enormous potential, but there is still numerous things they can learn in Portland. These players, if Buffalo develops them right, are the future of this organization, along with leaders like Roy, Vanek, Pominville, and Hecht. However, this shouldn't be at the expense of the current season. Don't let the ghosts of the past focus only on the defense.
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