The Sabres defense is quickly gaining the distinction of being one of the top defense groups in the NHL on paper, and this is without playing a regular season game together. They will be asked to defend the crease in front of All-Star, Vezina Trophy winning goaltender Ryan Miller, along with up and comer Jhonas Enroth.
Tyler Myers – Christian Ehroff
This pair should find them selves on opposite sides of the blue line once the actual games begin. This pair will be looked at to not only stop the other team, but to go and score, as well. Myers will be entering his 3rd NHL season and is considered to be one of the premier defense man in the league. Not only will his extended reach close down gaps in the defensive zone, he was able to realize his physical prowess and was not taking any nonsense from anyone, last season, Zdeno Chara included. While not being known for his defensive dominance, Ehrhoff is known as one of the top offensive defense man in the league. It has been seen in the preseason that he is willing to join the rush and create offensive chances. Both players will see time playing the point on the PP, with Ehrhoff most likely quarterbacking the first line.
Jordan Leopold-Robyn Regehr
The former Calgary Flame teammates will find themselves reunited on the same blue line for the upcoming season. Regehr has garnered a lot of attention since coming over from Calgary early in the off-season. While not known for scoring goals, Regehr is known for dominating the defensive zone with his physical play and defensive skill. One thing the Sabres have been missing is that defenseman who could out muscle most opposing forwards in the league, and that man has been found in Regehr. Regehr will be a constant player on the PK, and should be paired up with Myers to go aginst the other teams’ top units. Leopold is more known for his offensive play, but is capable of playing a solid defensive game. Last season, Leopold was the second highest scoring defense man for the Blue and Gold and will look to continue this. He could find himself on the second PP unit along with Tyler Myers, which could be a top unit on another team.
Andrej Sekera – Marc-Andre Gragnani – Mike Weber
These three young man will to start the season finding themselves rotated between being in the lineup and in the press box. To start the season this pair will likely be Sekera and Gragnani. Sekera is one of the young defenseman the Sabres feel confident in for years to come after signing a new 4-year deal this off-season. Last year was a year of streaks for Sekera. There were times when Sekera was nearly unstoppable for opposing teams to defend his offensive ability. On the other side of things, Sekera as had those moments where you wondered if he was really ready to make the jump to be a full time defenseman. There will be a short leash for Sekera this season. This can be done since the Sabres will have an NHL capable player up in the press box every night, barring injuries. Gragnani will be entering his rookie season in the top hockey league in the world. Up to this point he has amassed only 15 regular season games and 7 playoff games. He will be looked at to produce on the offensive side of things. In last season’s playoffs, I will flat out say Gragnani was the best Sabres player on the ice. He did everything, from shutting down Philadelphia’s offense, play on both the PP and PK, and also lead the team in points with 7. This season, Gragnani, when playing, should be paired with Ehrhoff on the first PP unit. Gragnani should be able to put up decent number if he stays in the lineup for the majority of the season. A 40 point season is not out of reach if everything falls into place. At this point Weber will be pushing all the other defenders to play better, because he will be chomping at the bit for any player to make a mistake and let their lineup spot fall to him. Weber put up a decent rookie season last year putting up 17 points and showing loads of grit and physical ability. Not afraid to drops the glove with anybody, Weber will not be intimidated by any of the leagues power forwards, goons, and enforcers.
Starter- Ryan Miller
Once again, and to the surprised of no one, Ryan Miller will be entrusted to defend the twine for the Sabres for the majority of the games. Miller will be looking to return to his All-Star status this season. This shouldn’t be a problem since the Sabres have surrounded Miller with a top flight group of defensemen. Miller should get around 60 games this season, which would be on the lower side from past seasons, and reduce the amount of both mental and physical fatigue. This can be done with the emergence of Jhonas Enroth as a legitimate backup goaltender. Miller should be able to reach to 40 win plateau for the third time in his career. If Miller falters at all this year Enroth will be given a chance to play, which should lead Miller to upping his level of play because this will be the first time since Marty Biron in which Miller has a backup who could be trusted with the role of starter for longer periods of time. (Editor’s Note: That’s not to say that Jhonas Enroth could take Miller’s job from him. Jeff is only pointing out that the Sabres finally have a guy that can be trusted to start in place of Ryan Miller if need be.)
Backup- Jhonas Enroth
Enroth will be looking to add to his numbers from his first serious stint the NHL. In 14 games last season, Enroth was able to amass a record of 9-2-2-1. Enroth will be the first serious backup goaltender for the Sabres since the presence of fan favorite Marty Biron. I would not be shocked to see Enroth getting between 20-25 games, if not more this season. He will be pushing Miller every step of the way, and if Miller were to falter at all Lindy Ruff should have no problem giving Enroth time to see if he is the real deal.