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The Rise of Andrej Sekera

Andrej Sekera was drafted in the 2004 Entry Draft by the Buffalo Sabres, with the 71st overall pick. Being a third-round pick, there were some expectations for Sekera to develop into a decent NHL defenseman.

Sekera signed a three-year entry level deal with the Buffalo Sabres after posting 55 points in the OHL with the Owen Sound Attack, while boasting an impressive plus 15 rating.

In his last OHL season, Sekera’s great defensive work won him the Max Kaminsky Trophy for being the most outstanding defenseman in the league.

The following season, Sekera began his ascent to the NHL.

During the 2006-07 season, in his first season of professional hockey, Sekera played in 54 games in the AHL for the Rochester Americans. Sekera posted 19 points (3 goals, 19 assists) and a plus 14 rating.

Sekera made his NHL debut with the Buffalo Sabres, during the 2006-07 season, on December 9, 2006 against the Montreal Canadiens. Sekera would play in one more game with the Sabres that season, before being sent back down to the Rochester Americans. He finished his first run with the Sabres with zero points, a plus one rating and two penalty minutes in two games.

The 2007-08 season would bring Sekera more opportunities in Buffalo. He would end up splitting the season between Rochester and Buffalo. Sekera had 17 points (2 goals, 15 assists, minus three rating) for the Americans in 40 games, while posting 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists, plus five rating) in 37 games for the Sabres.

Coming into the 2008-09 season, Sekera had cemented a spot on the Buffalo Sabres’ opening game roster. Throughout that season, Sekera would post 19 points (3 goals, 16 assists) but have a very ugly minus eleven rating.

Going into the 2009-10 season, Sekera locked his spot up on the team, after resigning with the organization. Re-signing with the Sabres was big for Sekera but coming off of a season where he struggled defensively, his group of doubters grew by the game.

Many people doubted that Sekera would ever develop into an effective NHL defenseman. He struggled with puck control and, at times, seemed overmatched with the speed of the NHL and the physicality that came along with it.

Going into his third full NHL season, many people said that the 2009-10 season would be Sekera’s make-or-break year.

Sekera got off to a bad start and never bounced back. In early October, Sekera suffered a rib injury and ended up missing seven games in the month of October. Sekera went on to battle ineffectiveness throughout the entire season. He would go on to post 11 points (4 goals, 7 assists and a minus one rating) in 49 games.

By this point, most Sabres fans had been very vocal about their discontent with Sekera’s inconsistent play throughout his first three seasons.

Most fans, and analysts, believed that the Sabres would need to strengthen their defensive corps if they wanted to improve their team. Most fans felt that Sekera would need to be sent packing in order for that process to begin.

Oh but how Andrej Sekera would prove those doubters wrong during the current NHL season.

Taking a trip down memory lane quickly, this website stated in an article back on August 29, 2010 that Sekera “has yet to prove anything to anyone,” while being “penciled in as the Sabres’ sixth and final defenseman.”

Sekera started off the 2010-11 season painfully slow. He would not record his first assist until the eighth game of the season against the Ottawa Senators and his first goal came in the Sabres’ twelfth game against the Boston Bruins.

This painful scoring pace that Sekera was on would continue until late in the season. Through the Sabres’ first 57 games, Sekera posted 12 points (1 goal, 11 assists) along with a minus four rating in 56 games (Sekera sat out the Sabres game on October 29 against the Atlanta Thrashers due to an upper-body injury).

As Sekera continued with his inconsistent, and often bad, hockey play, Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff decided that before the game on February 20, against the Washington Capitals, that it was time to bench Sekera.  At that point in the season, Sekera had not recorded a goal or an assist in 19 games.

Almost every Sabres fan agreed with Lindy Ruff’s move to send Sekera to the press box for a handful of games.

A second chance is all that Sekera needed and a second chance he got. Sekera made his return to the lineup on February 26 against the Detroit Red Wings, after a three-game benching, due to an upper-body injury that Jordan Leopold suffered the night before.

Twelve minutes and fifty-five seconds into the first period, Andrej Sekera began to state his case as to why he belongs in the lineup. Sekera rushed down the right wing and beat Detroit Red Wings goaltender Joey MacDonald on a perfect backhand.

Sekera was not done there.

A little over two minutes later, Sekera led a rush into the Red Wings zone. This rush looked almost exactly the same as the one he had scored on just a few minutes before. Sekera would not score here but he would beautifully feed the puck to Mike Grier, who put the puck in the net.

After all was said and done in Buffalo, the Sabres had lost 4-3 in a shootout but Andrej Sekera had posted two points in the game. Just to put this into perspective, this was Sekera’s first multiple point game since February 5, 2010 against the Carolina Hurricanes. Sekera also had a goal and an assist in that game.

What has happened since Lindy Ruff put Andrej Sekera back in the lineup seems like something out of science fiction. In his last fifteen games, Sekera has amassed 16 points (2 goals, 14 assists) along with a plus 10 rating.

Again, it is time for moment of perspective. Sekera has scored one less point in his last 15 games than he scored in the last 63 regular season games he had played in, before his three-game stint in the press box.

As of March 29, Sekera has 28 points (3 goals, 25 assists), along with a plus 8 rating in 71 games. He is currently tied with Tyler Myers for the team-lead in assists by a defenseman on the Buffalo Sabres.

Sekera is one goal away from tying his previous season-high mark (4 in 2009-10) and he has already set his season-high mark for assists (previous high was 16, back in 2008-09).

After running with that second chance he received after a Jordan Leopold injury, Sekera has been able to prove that he might not be as big of a defensive liability as previously thought.

Although with the recent loss of Jordan Leopold for the rest of the regular season, and possibly the playoffs, due to a broken hand,  Andrej Sekera needs to continue develop as a defenseman and help lead this Buffalo Sabres squad into the playoffs.

After seeing his amazing offensive and defensive improvements in the past fifteen games, it seems that anything is possible with Andrej Sekera.

 

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