“I don’t think he’s fooling anybody. He’s a tremendous skater. He’s got skill. He is what we need. We need our D to get up in the play and become that second wave of attack that we didn’t have much of this year.”
These were some of the last words echoed by former Sabres general manager Tim Murray in his final press conference with the media. He was speaking about none other than their top defensive-prospect Brendan Guhle. Even though the Murray/Bylsma regime is out and the Botterill/Housley regime is in, these words still ring true.
So it begs the question: when will Guhle get his shot with the Sabres?
It’s reasonable to assume that he will get a callup at some point during the season, but with injuries and the mediocre depth the Sabres have at the position, his opportunity may arrive sooner rather than later.
Barely one month into the season, Buffalo has lost Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, Nathan Beaulieu, Josh Gorges and Justin Falk to injuries. In response, they’ve had to utilize players such as Matt Tennyson, Taylor Fedun, and Zach Redmond — not manyof whom are fan favorites.
The fact that Guhle hasn’t played with the Sabres yet has to do in large part with Botterill’s strategy of player development. He wants players to grow and develop the right way. Anytime you rush it, you risk the player developing confidence issues, collecting bad habits, among other things. With three Stanley Cups to his credit, it’s safe to say that we can trust Botterill’s plan.
However, it doesn’t mean certain circumstances won’t force Guhle onto a spot on the Sabres’ roster in the near future. The universe seems to be aligning itself for such a scenario.
Only 13 games into his season with the Rochester Americans, Guhle finds himself with nine points (two goals, seven assists). That leads all Rochester defenseman and has him tied for third on the team in scoring. Eight of his nine points also came in a seven-game stretch. He’s obviously exactly what the Sabres are missing and have missed for a long time.
Much like last season, the Sabres have a defensive group inept at scoring goals. Through 17 games, no Buffalo defenseman has scored a goal. In a recent interview with Schopp and Bulldog, Botterill said he “isn’t worried” about the lack of production from the back-end. Guhle, in the eyes of many, seems like an obvious solution to such a predicament. Botterill responded,
“Well, first of all, we absolutely love have Mr. Guhle in our organization. We think he’s an excellent prospect for us 100% and we’re very happy about he started the season. You look at his point production on the power-play down there and just his demeanor. He’s playing big minutes against top-players. Because of some of the injuries and call-ups, it’s a situation where he’s been thrown into some very difficult situations and he’s done a very good job, so we’re ecstatic about how he’s progressing.”
Guhle has played extremely well and deserves all the praise he’s getting. With that said, though, there is still an obvious benefit for him to be playing in Rochester. Coach Housley agrees:
“I think he’s doing a great job developing where he is right now. It’s fair to say we don’t want to rush him. He’s in a good spot, he’s playing well, he’s getting the minutes right now that I think are going to help carry his game and develop him.”
Sabres’ management appears determined to handle the Guhle situation delicately. Who can blame them? At the end of the day, though, Guhle’s trajectory is a moving target.
If the Sabres are long out of a playoff spot near the end of the season, they’ll definitely give him a look. But if injuries continue to pile up and he continues to play at a high level, Guhle’s opportunity in Buffalo may be imminent.