Part 2 of the Sabres season review discusses the progression of the defenseman this season, and where the goaltenders in the organization stand.
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Brian Campbell (6-42-48) Campbell enjoyed his best offensive season in 2006-2007, finishing tops among Sabres defenseman in points. Earned his first trip to the All Star Game this past season, voted a strter by the fans. His play seemed to slip a bit after January, but enjoyed a good playoff run, scoring 2 goals while avergaing nearly 30 minutes of ice time per game.
Next season: An Unrestricted Free Agent after this season, Campbell could be primed for a big payday with another season like this one. Campbell should continue to get top flight time, including time on the power play and penalty kill situations. If given a hard nosed partner, Campbell could really excel as a top defenseman.
Henrik Tallinder (4-10-14) Tallinder only played in 47 games this past season due to various injuries, but when healthy was the Sabres best defenseman. A big man with good reach, Tallinder usually plays against the oppositions best players. Handled Jaromir Jagr well in the playoffs, but struggled with the Ottawa Senators big line.
Next season: If healthy, Tallinder is an all star candidate. His good size helps neutralize opponents, while playing a smart game with a slight physical edge. Coudl be in line for a 30 point season if healthy. Tallinder is signed for another 3 years.
Toni Lydman (2-17-19) The other half of the Sabres shut down pairing, Lydman was a calming force much of the season for the Sabres. paired with Tallinder againts the opponents best lines, Lydman showed more of a physical side this season. Was the Sabres most consistant defenseman in the playoffs.
Next season: Lydman shoudl continue his strong play since coming from the Flames before last season. He and Tallinder should see the same assignments next season. Lydman, like Tallinder, is signed through the next 3 years.
Jaroslav Spacek (5-16-21) Spacek struggled in his first season with the Sabres. His 5 goals were his lowest since 2003, and his point production fell considerably from last season. Blessed with a good, hard shot, he did not get the chance to use it very much. Saw limited time on the powerplay for the Sabres.
Next season: While many are calling for Spacek to be traded, his $3.3 million salary may not allow that. He should bounce back from an off season. Could be successful in a lesser role as a 5th/6th defenseman. Should get more looks on the powerplay next season. Spacek is signed for the next 2 years.
Dmitri Kalinin (7-22-29) Kalinin led all Sabre defenseman in goals this past season while playign mainly as a 6th defenseman. Kalinin was solid on the penalty kill and powerplay when used, but continues to struggle with the mental aspects of the game. Has all the physical tools, but mentally seems to just not be there most of the time. Was considered the Sabres best defenseman in the playoff suntil his giveaway resulted in Mike Fisher;s shorthanded goal in game 1 of the Ottawa series. Kalinin never recovered.
Next season: Kalinin is in desperate need for a change of scenery. Like Taylor Pyatt last season, Kalinin needs to be moved, if anything to save his career. A new coach with a different approach may be able to help. His spot time in Games 5 and 6 of the Ottawa series will likely be our last memory of Kalinin.
Teppo Numminen ( 2-27-29) At age 39, Numminen continues to defy father time by playing steady hockey at such an "old" age for hockey players. Did look tired at times, but was steady for the most part.
Next season: Teppo has stated that retirement is an option, but the smart money says he returns to play at least one more season. At $2.6 million, his salary may be too high for Buffalo. If he was willing to return at a reduced rate, he could be retained, but may have to settle with being the 7th defenseman.
Nathan Paetsch (2-22-24) Paetsch was a pleasant suprise for the Sabres in his first season with the big club. Paetsch saw significant time in place of injured players such as Tallinder and Numminen, even leading the team in power play assists while only playing in 63 games.
Next season: Paetsch is a Restricted Free Agent who will certainly be retained. He seems to have locked up a top 6 spot, likely at the expense of Numminen and/or Kalinin. Paetsch will likely be a fixture on the Powerplay next season after his success there this past season.
Waiting in the Wings:
Timo Helbling and Mikko Lehtonen were both acquired at the trade deadline to give Buffalo some expierenced depth in Rochester in case injuries should strik, ala last season. neither saw Buffalo in their time here. Both are UFAs that may be resigned for depth reasons and to keep Rochester stocked. Lehtonen played 55 games for Nashville last season, so he could push for the 7th defenseman spot if it becomes available. Helbling is a solid player who will likely see spot duty if need be, but looks like a career AHLer.
Michael Funk saw limited action with the team when injuries struck the blue line, recording 2 assists in 5 games. A big kid at 6'3, Funk will add size to the blue line when he fully develops. Needs at least one mroe season in Rochester.
Andrej Sekera struggled in his first season of professional hockey, but still ranks as the Sabres top prospect on the blue line. Saw 2 games for the Sabres, recording no points. Could make the Sabres team with a strong camp, but will likely be in Rochester next season. Sekera is a skilled offensive player, similar in style to fellow countryman Andrei Meszaros.
Michael Card struggled the worse of any defenseman, even being demoted to the ECHL before the Amerks playoff run. A good offensive player, Card needs at least two more seasons in Rochester to grasp the speed of the game and mature properly.
2006 1st round pick Dennis Persson had a tough season last year in Sweden, but continues to develop nicely. Persson is a do everything defenseman with a strong offensive upside. He could see Rochester by the 2008-09 season.
Prospect Mike Weber could develope into a big time physical presence for the Sabres with a little more time. Another prospect, Chris Butler, has enjoyed good success with NCAA powerhouse Colorado College, and may join Rochester next season.
Ryan Miller (40-16-6, 2.73 GAA, .911) Miller was an All Star starter who enjoyed his first 40 win season of his young career. Miller was solid when needed, but suffered a bit in the numbers with the Sabres high octane style. Miller was easily the Sabres best all around player in their playoff run, keeping the Sabres in plenty of games with his big time goaltending.
Next Season: Miller showed in these playoffs that he is indeed one of the leagues top goaltenders. With a little more help and a defense oriented system, Miller could very well challenge for the Vezina Trophy every season. He should continue to be a big time goaltender for years to come. Will see even more work next season. Needs to work on conditioning both mentally and physically, tends to suffer from rundown at certain times.
Ty Conklin (3-5-2, 3.34 GAA, .879) Conklin saw limited time after comign over at the deadline in a trade from Columbus. He is considered by many as a lower tier backup, who is servicable at best.
Next season: A UFA, Conklin may not see many offers from teams and is likely to return at a low price. The team may look to upgrade behinf Milelr due to his tendencies to suffer from rundown, but Conklin is a good option to play 10-15 games and at least be adequate at best.
Waiting in the Wings:
Adam Dennis dressed for 5 games with Buffalo when Miller was injured, but saw no action. Struggled at times in Rochester, including giving up 9 goals in a game twice. Is in need of at least one more season in Rochester before getting a shot at the big club.
Jhonas Enroth is devloping in Sweden as the best goaltending prospect in that country since Henrik Lundqvist. A very good athlete, Enroth sported a 23-2-2 record in Sweden this past season, while also starting for Sweden in the World Junior Championships. Will turn 19 by training camp, Enroth could spend one more year in Sweden before coming to North America. Could realistically challenge for the Sabres roster in about 3 years.
Next: We take a look at the Special Teams and the Coaching and Management staffs.
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