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Defense: It Takes Time

A few weeks ago I remember reading an article on WGR’s website about how the Bills keep mismanaging running backs in the same way every few years.

It reminded me a little bit a about how the Sabres have functioned with their defensemen, so I did a little digging. Patterns are pretty simple to find when you know where to look.

I will be examining several defensemen that the Sabres have developed and taking a look at their progressions (and regressions) throughout their careers in Buffalo. The defensemen: Brian Campbell (a success), Nathan Paetsch (a failure), Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler (the current projects) and Tyler Myers (the next project).

After two years of brief call ups Brian Campbell broke through in the 2001-02 season with respectable number through 29 games. He then struggled through his next two seasons with meager offensive numbers and poor defensive play.

In what was essentially his 4th year in the league he broke though offensively with 44 points but still had a poor defensive reputation. Finally in his last full season with the Sabres he put together a very strong season defensively and offensively. He then was traded to San Jose and signed in Chicago for a ridiculous amount of money.

Nathan Paetsch flew onto Sabres’ fans radars in 2006-07 when he a very solid season with 24 points and a +10 rating. The following two seasons he could not find the ice as he kept getting surpassed by other players (like Sekera and even Nolan Pratt).

He progressively put up fewer points and played fewer games until he was finally traded to Columbus, at the conclusion of his 4th season. He now plays in Manitoba, hoping for a shot at the Cup with Vancouver.

Andrej Sekera blew away the Sabres in his 1st year. Playing a calm responsible game and adding a smooth skating presence to the lineup. He was instantly dubbed “the next Brian Campbell”. No one knew how apt that would prove to be.

Sekera’s play suffered in his 2nd season and he admitted to losing confidence down the stretch. He spent the next two seasons struggling with ice time and poor play. He has turned it around so far this season (his 4th) and looks to be a solid defenseman in the vein of a Henrik Tallinder, even now he’s playing occasionally on a pairing with Tyler Myers.

Chris Butler also jumped into the spotlight with a late season call up and refused to be sent down. The next season he was given enough ice time to fail and has struggled ever since. He has been alright this season but not as good as many think he can be. This is his 3rd season with the team and he seems to be following the pattern.

So for anyone shocked that a young stalwart defenseman with tons of talent who earn a spot and looked like a superstar to regress in his second year just isn’t paying attention. It’s a simple formula. One good year, two bad years and then they get there.

So Tyler Myers won the Calder Trophy and now he isn’t a dominant player, in fact, he’s struggling. This seems to be expected. Don’t worry, he’ll be fine by 2012-13. That’s what the patterns say.

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