Friday, September 22, 2017

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster--The Fourth Line

Published by, 9-21-2017

There are a lot of variables that need to play out in the top-nine before a fourth line can be established, most notably what coach Phil Housley wants to do with Sam Reinhart. Moving him to center would push Johan Larsson down a spot which and with Jason Pominville moving into Reinhart's spot in the top-six, a third-line right wing spot is open.

What Housley does with another forward will also dictate what happens on the fourth line.

LW, Zemgus Girgensons
6'2" 207 lbs.
23 yrs. old
2012, 14th-overall
Career stats:  277 games  |   37 goals  |  49 assists  |  86 points  |  -29

Housley has given Girgensons first crack at landing a spot in the top-six on a wing with Ryan O'Reilly and Kyle Okposo. The 6'2" 207 lb. native of Latvia has the speed and will to get the forecheck going and once he gets the puck on his stick along the boards, the opposition can't get it away from him.

Girgensons' trials and tribulations under former head coach Dan Bylsma have been well documented as had been his 15-goal season prior to Bylsma coming to Buffalo. All that has been changed now with Housley behind the bench. In Buffalo's first pre-season game against Carolina, Girgensons skated 18:38 with three of the line's eight shots on goal. Although they didn't hit the score sheet, that line spent an abundant amount of time in the offensive zone.

"I thought that line was terrific," said Housley post game to the gathered media. "They provided a lot of energy. When we needed a big shift, they gave it to us, they changed the momentum of the game."

Housley also pointed out that they had a lot of looks, however that line failed to hit the scoresheet.

Girgensons has the will and desire to make a difference in the top-six, but any offensive acumen he may have had seemed to get lost under Bylsma. A golden opportunity is right in front of him, and the only question is, does he have enough offensive acumen to stick in that top-six role?

C, Jacob Josefson
6'0" 196 lbs.
26 yrs. old
2009, 20th-overall (NJD)
Signed by Buffalo in 2017.
Career stats:  276 games |  18 goals |  42 assists  |  60 points  |  -17

A Reinhart move back to center will directly affect Jacob Josefson as it means he's probably in the pressbox.

Josefson was signed by the Sabres in the off season as a depth move as GM Jason Botterill and were not sure what we have yet in him. The 26 yr. old center was labeled "an enigma" by Amanda Rosko of The Hockey Writers back in November, 2015. She wrote that he "exhibits a solid skill-set" but lacks "physicality and finish" and goes on to perpetuate the curious case of Jacob Josefson when she writes, "the mystery continues when a person examines Josefson’s shootout record and ability. When number 16 takes the ice for the Devils, it is almost automatically assumed that he will beat the oppositional goaltender regardless of whom it is when the game goes beyond 65-minutes. He excels and stands out in the skills competition."

The past five seasons Josefson has gone 11/20 (55%) in the shootout and is tops in the league over that period for players with 20 or more shootout attempts. The Sabres were 25th in the league scoring at a 22% rate (6/27) last season.

RW, Matt Moulson
33 yrs. old
6'1" 203 lbs.
2003, 9th round (263rd-overall, PIT)
Signed by Buffalo to a five year FA contract in 2014

Career stats:  636 games  |  176 goals  |  193 assists  |  369 points  |  -33

Forward Matt Moulson has had a rough for the better part of his three seasons in Buffalo as he's not been able to regain his 30-goal form from his time with the NY Islanders.

Moulson's first season in Buffalo was promising as he totaled 41 points (13+28) on Buffalo's top line for an offensively inept Sabres team. However he's had trouble in the two seasons since. In 2015-16, under Bylsma, he fell down the depth chart in large part due to improper off-season conditioning. He came back in much better shape, and with a renewed desire last season, but was relegated to powerplay specialist status as 11 of his 14 goals came with the man advantage.

He has two years left on his contract with a $5 million cap-hit. Buying him out would have been impractical this season but next year may be a different story.
Moulson is a great guy, who even took rookie Jack Eichel into his home to help him adjust. However, the speed of the game may have passed him by.

Building the 2017-18 Buffalo Sabres roster:

LW, Evander Kane / C, Jack Eichel / RW, Sam Reinhart
LW, Benoit Pouliot / C, Ryan O'Reilly / RW, Kyle Okposo
LW, Evan Rodrigues / C, Johan Larsson / RW, Jason Pominville

D, Marco Scandella / D, Rasmus Ristolainen
D, Jake McCabe / D, Zach Bogosian
D, Nathan Beaulieu / D, Victor Antipin

G, Robin Lehner
G, Chad Johnson

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