Friday, October 17, 2014

Tyler Myers, Sam Reinhart, and other thoughts

Reprinted with permission from

The Tyler Myers rumors are cranking up again fueled by TSN's Darren Dreger.

For Dreger, it's becoming old hat to trot out Myers' name in his Insider Trading segment. Back in February when the rumor mill was cranking for the impending trade deadline, Dreger was invited on WGR Radio to discuss word that the Sabres' were getting interest in Myers from teams like the Colorado Avalanche, Anaheim Ducks, Edmonton Oilers and the always present Toronto Maple Leafs.

Dreger noted that Sabres GM Tim Murray wasn't actively shopping Myers and that a rebuilding team should at least entertain offers for a perceived top-pairing defenseman. He emphasized that Myers would not just be given away and mentioned that Murray would probably looking for a young roster player, a prospect and a draft pick.

As the trade deadline came and went with Myers staying put, rumors subsided until July when the Detroit Red Wings were said to be interested in him. Wings GM Ken Holland was looking for a right handed d-man during the stretch run and had his eyes set on Vancouver's, Alexander Edler.

That fell through and to make matters worse in Hockeytown, Detroit, uncharacteristically, was unable to land top free agents on July 1st. "Our hope was to acquire a right-shot defenseman," GM Ken Holland said at the time. "We made offers to four or five. For a variety of reasons, they chose to go elsewhere."

Helene St. James of the Detroit Free Press was making the radio-rounds in the first week of July when Myers' popped up on the radar and she speculated names like Gustav Nyquist, Tomas Tartar or Tomas Jurco would be in the mix plus "a defenseman, and a first-round pick."

In a Free Press article, St. James described Myers in a way that may have had her wondering why the Sabres would part with Myers at this time. "[He] stands a towering 6-feet-8, the only D-man who can look Boston’s Zdeno Chara in the eye without craning his neck. Myers is only 24, but already he has played 318 NHL games since joining Buffalo in 2009-10, the season he took home the Calder Trophy as rookie of the year on the strength of 48 points in 82 games.

"He is good offensively (he has hit or come close to 10 goals four out of five seasons) and valuable on the power play, where he has 13 of his 41 career goals.

"In 2013-14, Myers had nine goals and 22 points in 62 games, averaging just under 22 minutes per game. He is a very good skater, plays in all situations and can serve as a shut-down guy. Myers makes mistakes (like everyone else), but he has franchise defenseman written all over him, and he is still two or three years removed from even entering his prime."

Which begs the question, why would the Sabres part with Myers?

Murray and former GM Darcy Regier gutted the defense-corps to make room for the charge of the youngins. Myers, at the age of 24, is the oldest of this young group. Mark Pysyk, who should be in the top-six upon returning from injury, is 22 yrs. old and Rasmus Ristolainen is 19. In the hopper are Jake McCabe (21) and Nikita Zadorov (19) who are skating with the team but will probably be headed to the AHL and junior respectively. Twenty-four year old Chad Ruhwedel should not be dismissed either as he's making definitive progress in the AHL.

This off season Murray was able to sign veteran stay-at-home defenseman, Josh Gorges. With head coach Ted Nolan taking off the chains and Gorges holding the fort, Myers has had free-reign on the ice and has been showing the form that made him rookie of the year. He's averaging over 26 minutes a game and has an even plus/minus rating. Although he's yet to hit the scoresheet, not much space is being created by a group of forwards that has only four goal scorers thus far this season. Scoring will come.

Add that to the fact that the Sabres gutted it out with Myers as his play steadily declined in the three post-Calder Trophy years before bottoming out under X's and O's head coach, Ron Rolston, and it doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sabres to move him. Unless the return is off the charts.

Myers is in the third year of a 7yr./$38.5M contract he signed under the previous regime. His $5.5M cap-hit is very attractive anywhere along a team's top-three defensemen, which is where he is on any team in the league. And it's attractive to a team like the Buffalo Sabres who could have their top defenseman locked into that salary for the next four seasons.

Again, with all of that going for the team with Myers, it just doesn't make a lot of sense for the Sabres to trade him now. Unless you're in the media and need a story.


The Sam Reinhart experiment has gone on one game too long.

Against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday Reinhart skated on the fourth line for 6:39 with, obviously, no special teams time.

Regardless of where he was drafted or what his skill-set is, Reinhart's game has not translated to the NHL yet and any more games he plays on the fourth line would further that point.

He has shown glimpses of what he has to offer and you can see that he's a sponge soaking up his environment, but the simple fact is this, he's not physically ready for the NHL. It's a man's game. The players on that ice are at work. They're busting their asses at a job that pays them more than they'll ever make anywhere else and they're willing to do anything to keep it. That would include laying the body on an underdeveloped, 18 yr. old who just happened to be the second overall pick in June's draft.

If the Sabres are truly committed to player development, they'll send Reinhart back to junior. It's looks to be another rough year in Buffalo, so why expose a kid to a losing environment? Unless you're Zemgus Girgensons who has the physical and mental makeup, being in an environment like that will only hinder player development.


Speaking of Girgensons, people are starting to hop a ride on the "Latvian Locomotive" and are now starting to guage what his upside might be.

Many questioned his skill-level and projected him out as a top-nine/bottom-six type of grinder with a decent, yet limited, scoring touch. And rightfully so as last year he scored only eight goals and 22 points in 71 NHL games. The prior season in Rochester he had six goals and 17 points in 61 regular season games for the Amerks.

Girgensons is beginning to put those questions to rest as he displayed a slick set of hands in scoring both his goals as well as his shootout winner and he looks poised for a breakout year at only 20 yrs. old.

One of the reasons Girgensons was the only youngin to stay in Buffalo through the implosion last season was his stout constitution. The kid has thick skin and is not bothered by anything. In fact, it would seem as if the more difficult the situation, the more he looks forward to the challenge.

I wrote a piece on him back in July, 2012 focusing upon his skill and will.

According to former coaches, his will proceeded his skill and in the piece I grabbed a quote from an article by Kevin Snow entitled The Legend of Zemgus.

Jim Montgomery who was coach and general manager when Girgensons played for the Dubuque Fighting Saints (USHL) said this about the kid, "If Zemgus has the belief that he can accomplish something, and there’s a challenge in front of him, then he’s going to attack it.

"His skill and will have been elite since day one. That’s why he was an NHL first round pick and that’s why he is signing an NHL contract today (at 18 yrs. old.) Whatever situation he is put in the coach is going to love him and his teammates are going to love him. He is the ultimate team player that helps you win every night.”

In watching his development, he didn't go Sam Bennett all-in and end up on the IR route. Girgensons took a measured approach, soaking in the game every shift. He was constantly in motion with the wheels in his brain churning while he used every degree of his peripheral vision to get a feel for the ice. He did that in Rochester and then again last season in Buffalo.

The difference between Girgensons and Reinhart, who is doing the same thing, is that Girgensons had an NHL-body at the age of 18 whereas Reinhart is not quite there yet.

Kevin Oklobzija of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle was on this at the 2012 Sabres Development Camp when he said Girgensons turning pro was a "foregone conclusion." Wrote Oklobzija, "Once he learned where he stood physically against other young pros, I think he knew this is where he should be. The vibes I sensed in speaking with him on Monday and again on Thursday made it seem pretty clear he wanted to be a professional hockey player now."

Girgensons is a fearless, two-way, heart and soul kinda player who still has plenty of upside. He has all the makings of a special player in this league.

One final note, Montgomery tweeted out (thx, Bill Hoppe) that the name Zemgus in Latvian means "one who eats lions."

Not "has the heart of a Lion," but "one who eats lions."


I love it when the media jumps on a "darling" early on. It usually foreshadows a fall, however brief or long that tumble might be.

Sabres fans have a keen interest in what happens with the NY Islanders this season as they own the Isles first round pick in the 2015 draft. Islanders GM Garth Snow went to work to make his club a playoff team and avoid a possible lottery pick for the Sabres.

In May he solidified his goaltending situation by trading a fourth round pick for the rights for soon to be unrestricted free agent, Jaroslav Halak. Snow proceeded to re-sign him to a four year, $18M contract extension.

Next Snow would start shoring up his weak defense-corps.

In June he traded a conditional fifth-round pick for San Jose's Dan Boyle and on October 4th, the Isles announced that they had made separate trades for Chicago's Nick Leddy and Boston's Johnny Boychuk.

He also added some veteran presence to the forward group by signing Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin and added some depth with former Sabre Cory Conacher.

The result thus far has been very positive as the Islanders jumped out to a 3-0 start to the season.

Puck Daddy's Greg Wyshynski is leading the parade by touting the hot start of Brock Nelson and the Livestrong "knockoff bracelet" he wears that says "Prove People Wrong." Nelson said of the bracelet and the slogan, "It’s kind of a good slogan to carry around with you all the time."

Although I don't have the figures, nor do I have the desire to look them up, one can bet that Nelson now appears on at least twice as many fantasy lineups as before. His three goals and seven points has him in the company of Alexander Ovechkin and teammate John Tavares atop the leaderboard for points in the NHL.

It's too early to judge where the Isles will finish the season and even with their start I'm not convinced they'll make it into the playoffs. In their three wins, two have come against Carolina and in the other one they had everything go their way in a 6-3 drubbing of the NY Rangers.

Tonight will be a real good test against a big, strong, hungry San Jose' Sharks team. Even with a victory, the big test for the Isles, as with any pro team, is depth as the long hockey season drags on.


Finally, the Sabres are at home facing the 0-2-1 Florida Panthers tomorrow night.

The Cats are off to a rough start with only three goals for, nine goals against and a home crowd vs. Ottawa the other night that only drew a little over 7,000 fans.

That's ugly.

Almost as ugly as goalie Roberto Luongo's 3.78 goals against average and .870 save percentage. Luongo is a seasoned veteran and will eventually right the ship, maybe even starting tomorrow night against the Sabres and their limited scoring ability (seven goals in four games.)

The intriguing "matchup," for what it's worth, might just be Cats defenseman Aaron Ekblad, who was taken first overall at the draft this year and Reinhart who was taken with the next selection.

Ekblad has been earning the confidence of Florida head coach Gerard Gallant as the 18 yr. old has seen his ice-time increase over the course of the first three games. Former Sabres' defenseman Brian Campbell has been Ekblad's partner.

Gallant has liked what he's seen so far, “The kid is playing the way we want him to,” Gallant said (via George Richards of the Miami Herald.) “He’s looked good. He’s playing the way he did in junior although he’s playing against men, against NHL players so he’s not getting the scoring chances he did. Still, he’s putting the puck to the net, moving the puck and defending real well. He’s getting better every game.”

Fact is, there really is no matchup as Reinhart is regressing. But it makes for good headlines. I guess..

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