Training Camp Preview: Defense
Brayden McNabb: Despite being the highest prospect on the depth chart last season, McNabb currently isn’t slated to get a training camp invite. This seems a rather curious decision. Admittedly T.J. Brennan has had an impressive season offensively, but he remains a -5 on the year. McNabb has 18 points (.5 ppg) and an even rating.
Not only that, but McNabb is a much lower risk call-up to camp. He would not have to clear waivers, unlike Brennan. It also wouldn’t cripple the Americans to have McNabb join camp considering that they have the extra defensemen necessary to fill in.
McNabb will likely be the first player called up from Rochester and will still probably get some time in the NHL this season.
T.J. Brennan: Brennan has been an offensive machine in Rochester this year. He is an assistant captain and leads the team in goals and points from the backend. This has made it impossible for the Sabres front office to not give him call. Unfortunately that could actually hurt Brennan in the longrun.
He is currently a star and a leader in the AHL, but could still use some time to work on his defensive game. Now he has to battle for ice time on an already loaded Buffalo defense. Brennan will have to outduel Adam Pardy, Alex Sulzer and Mike Weber to be just the 6th defenseman on the depth chart. What’s worse is that he cannot be sent down without having to clear waivers, which would mean that he would either have to be traded, or sit in the press box until someone is injured.
It seems like it might have been smarter to leave Brennan on the farm to get big minutes and use him when the need arises this season or next season, but it is clear that Buffalo’s coaching staff has liked what they’ve seen out of T.J. Brennan. Personally I can seem him jumping in and filling Jordan Leopold’s shoes when he departs via free agency over the summer.
Jordan Leopold and Andrej Sekera: Both players’ names have come up in trade speculation from fans, but neither is likely to go anywhere. Leopold is a goal scorer and a steady defensive presence. While Sekera has turned into a stalwart defenseman with some added offensive upside. As a fan you have to ask yourself, who would be a better fit than these two? Brennan? McNabb? Sulzer? None of those players are ready to fill the roles of Sekera and Leopold, so the two veterans will stay. If the Sabres fall out of playoff contention early, then you may see Leopold shipped out to gain some value, as he will likely depart as a free agent.
Mike Weber: Weber is a trooper and his toughness is something the Sabres have always desired in their lineup. Unfortunately Weber has struggled in recent seasons. He is prone to mishandling the puck and he is extremely slow for a shutdown defender. Weber did spend some time in Norway getting into game shape and if he comes back much improved he may get to play on the same team as his billet-brother, Steve Ott.
Alexander Sulzer: This is Sulzer’s big chance to finally establish himself as an NHLer. The fringe player from the past few season could be forgotten if he can lock down a spot in Buffalo’s top-6. Sulzer earned that spot with stellar play late in 2011-2012, but now he needs to maintain his spot with several hard charging rookies and veterans out to catch him. Look for Sulzer to start paired with Christian Ehrhoff, but if he struggles he probably will not have many chances with so many defensemen vying for ice time.
Adam Pardy: After several decent years in Calgary Pardy couldn’t not find his game in Dallas. Pardy does not have an impressive resume for his career, but he did manage to find some consistency when he was just beginning his career. Unfortunately for Pardy, a change of scenery was the worst thing that could happen to him. Injuries and bad decision making hampered his game and he became a scratch when he wasn’t hurt.
Now on his way to Buffalo, some time off may be what it takes to recharge Pardy’s career. He will have a chance to earn a spot in Buffalo’s top-6, especially now that they cannot bury him in Rochester. He could really benefit the team with a solid defensive presence, but he will need to get back to the great potential he had at the end of his career in Calgary and leave his days in Big-D in the past.