Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Before we get to Andrej Meszaros, the Buffalo Sabres are headed to Washington to take on the Capitals at 5pm this evening. Bill Hoppe reports that the roster for today (with no firm mention of lines and/or pairings) is:
Nick Deslauriers, Sam Reinhart, Joel Armia
Brian Flynn, Mikhail Grigorenko, Valclav Karabaek
Luke Adam, Zac Dalpe, Torrey Mitchell
Johan Larsson, Phil Varone, Matt Ellis
Andre Benoit, Rasmus Ristolainen
Mike Weber, Nikita Zadorov
Chad Ruhwedel, Tyson Strachan
When laying out the top two defensive pairings for the Buffalo Sabres heading into the 2014-15 season, many eyebrows were raised at placing former Colorado Avalanche defenseman, Andre Benoit, on the second pairing. Besides the belief that Benoit was nothing more than a bottom-pairing/depth defenseman, there were questions as to why a player of Andrej Meszaros' caliber would be below Benoit on my depth chart.
It has nothing to do with Meszaros' skill-level, which is still apparent. He can still lead or jump into the rush, still can man the point on the power play and still put up offensive numbers. When he's healthy. And it's those words, "when he's healthy," can be looked as the asterisk at this point in his career. Although Meszaros is only 28 yrs. old, his body has a lot of wear and tear on it.
Meszaros began logging substantial minutes during his second season with the Ottawa Senators, the team that drafted him 23rd-overall in the 2004 draft. His career started as a 17 yr. old playing for Dukla Trenčín of the Slovak Elite League. He followed that two-year stint with one season on the Vancouver Giants of the WHL during the lockout of 2004. Meszaros then hit the ice with Ottawa for the 2005-06 season to begin his NHL career.
During that 06/07 season his offensive acumen was brought to the fore. Meszaros was on the second pairing with second-unit powerplay minutes. He would finish the season scoring 10 goals and 39 points with five goals and 19 assists on the powerplay.
With the departure of Zdeno Chara on July 1, 2006, Meszaros would see increased ice-time and more responsibility. He and Anton Volchenkov would anchor the Sens second-pairing all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. Ottawa would lose to the Anaheim Ducks in five game.
After a short, two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Meszaros would take his talents to Philadelphia for a Flyer team that a Stanley Cup contender in 2009-10. Meszaros would win the Flyers Barry Ashbee Award for best defenseman in 2010-11.
Up until that point, Meszaros had played a ton of hockey. He played in 81 games or more in five of his first six seasons totaling 460 regular season games. He also played in 41 playoff games through the 2010-11 season.
In stark contrast to that, during the next three seasons he played a total of 125 games out of a possible 212 games (2012 lockout shortened season included.) His laundry list of injuries during that time span included a ruptured Achilles tendon, a disk fragment in his back, wrist surgery and shoulder surgery. This past season, one that would feature a recovery from injury, he was traded to the Boston Bruins, a team in need of desperate need of a defenseman, for a conditional third-round pick. Meszaros'
Anthony SanFlippo covered Meszaros on the mend back in May, 2013 as the defenseman was entering the final year of his contract. Sure enough, as we move through the article we find the words "when healthy" as SanFlippo acknowledges that Meszaros "serves as a solid two-way defenseman with a heavy shot from the point."
Digging a little deeper, fellow hockeybuzz blogger Bill Meltzer, was kind enough to take some time to offer some insight into Meszaros' time in Philly.
"Meszaros' defensive and physical games have been in a downward slide in each of the last three seasons," said Meltzer. "His bigger issue, though, has been a series of major injuries. This past season, Meszaros was finally able to get reasonably healthy. However, he did not play well enough either in Philadelphia or Boston to stay in the lineup despite some offensive contributions."
Meltzer, though, says that the his defensive woes were not so much a product of injuries and/or recovering from them, but more of "lost confidence and indecisiveness."
He calls Meszaros a "likable and straightforward guy with a good sense of humor" which will be welcome in a room that is building continuity and character and may need a dose of levity for what's sure to be another trying season. Melzter is also looking at the veteran d-man as a possible mentor to the youngins.
And, although Melzter wishes him well and hopes he has a bounceback season, he looks at Meszaros as "A good offensive threat that tends to play his best hockey when he gets third-pairing, even-strength minutes and a lot of offensive zone starts against moderate-to-lower competition."
For GM Tim Murray who arrived in Ottawa just as Meszaros was leaving for Philly, sheltered minutes on a third pairing mentoring Mark Pysyk just might be the most effective way to use Meszaros' strengths while preserving him for the 2015 trade deadline.
Murray signed Meszaros to a 1yr./$4m contract which helped the team get to the cap-floor and with the team's prospect depth at defense, it's hard to envision Meszaros playing past this season. Come trade deadline time most of that salary will have been paid and any contender should be interested in a veteran two-way defenseman who can add some offensive punch.
When he's healthy.
Building the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres roster:
LW, Matt Moulson/C, Tyler Ennis/RW, Drew Stafford
Cody Hodgson/Zemgus Girgensons/Brian Gionta
Brian Flynn/Marcus Foligno/Chris Stewart
LHD, Josh Gorges/RHD, Tyler Myers
Andre Benoit/Rasmus Ristolainen