After a season that ended without the playoffs and needed changes throughout the organization, GM Jason Botterill stressed the importance a great defense can have on a growing hockey team. In his first weeks on the job, he went out to put his words into action, but the most significant move he made was done after the draft and before free agency opened across the league.
On June 30, prior to the start of free agency, the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild made a trade that fans in Buffalo mostly viewed as the return of hometown favorite Jason Pominville. However, defenseman Marco Scandella, who was also involved in the trade, is not nearly as recognized in Buffalo as Pominville.
However, hockey fans are aware of what Scandella brings to his team on a nightly basis. Fast forward to nearly halfway through the year, and he has proved to be a bright spot on what has been a struggling defense.
In an article from the Minnesota Star-Tribune published on July 11 earlier this year, Scandella talked about the difficulty of being traded, although he was mentally prepared for it.
“It was the first time in my career that I’ve gone through a trade, even since junior, so it was new to me and it’s a little bit stressful.”
He went on to say that after immediate shock of the trade, he was excited to get to work in Buffalo.
“It was tough at the beginning to get traded, but at the end of the day, it’s a new challenge and I’m super excited about the new challenge I have [in Buffalo],” Scandella said.
Of all the defensemen Botterill brought to the Sabres in the offseason, which includes Nathan Beaulieu andVictor Antipin, Scandella has been the most consistent and productive. After undergoing hip surgery during the offseason, he has tallied 10 assists in 39 games played and has been a constant presence on the top defensive pairing alongside Rasmus Ristolainen.
Sabres coach Phil Housley also praised Scandella once the trade was finalized, stating “Marco is a terrific player…He was a key element to adding to our team. He’s a fierce competitor… Luckily for us, we got him. The way he can skate, is mobile… A big part of our team is going to be mobility back there and he brings that.”
After being selected in the second round of the 2008 NHL Draft, Scandella went on to play seven seasons for the Wild, where he earned 91 career points (27 goals, 62 assists) in 373 games before being traded this offseason to Buffalo.
As a member of the Sabres, his impact can now be felt on a struggling team in need of a reliable force in the lineup every night. Currently in the midst of a season in which the defense has been battered with injuries and inconsistent performances, Scandella has been the only exception and has been worth the price paid in the trade.