The Untouchables: Part 2-The Defensemen

Yesterday, I broke down how untouchable I thought the Sabres forwards were and today, I’m going to break down the defensemen. Here’s part one if you haven’t read it yet:

*Untouchable ratings go from 1-10, one being the most expendable and ten being untouchable.

*I won’t be discussing Sabres UFAs. Only signed players and RFAs

Andrej Sekera: The moblie blueliner was fairly inconsistent for part of last season, but then came that game against Detroit where he was skating like a man-possessed. From that game forward, Sekera was one of the best defensemen on the team, creating offensive chances for himself & his teammates, as well as being solid defensively. There was the occasional brain-cramp in his own end, but the good far outweighed the bad in my opinion. At his best, Sekera is a top-pairing defenseman who can make good plays at both ends of the ice with his skating ability. At his worst, he’s Dmitri Kalinin, meaning he’d make a great play, but he’d make a few boneheaded plays that cost your team goals. I think Sekera is right on the cusp of reaching his potential. Sabres fans should remember how long it took for Brian Campbell to develop and how good he was once everything clicked for him. Sekera is on a similar development path and if all goes well, I think he’ll end up putting up offensive numbers similar to Soupy with better defensive play. I think the smart move is to definitely keep him if Brad Richards doesn’t come here, but if he doesn’t come here, then I think he’d be a good trade chip to get a top 6 center. Untouchable Rating: 8/10

Jordan Leopold: I have to admit, I hated this signing last off-season, mainly because the front office gave the money and term they wouldn’t give to Toni Lydman to what I thought was an inferior defenseman. To this day, I would still rather have Lydman, but Leopold turned out to be a solid acquistion. He provided good offense from the blueline and solid play in his own end. The offense kind of dried up for Leopold as the season went on though which is somewhat discouraging. With that being said, I think he’ll be fine. Personally, I would look to move him before Sekera, but with Darcy going on record wanting to add another veteran defenseman, it seems very unlikely that he’d look to move a veteran of  Leopold’s calibur off the roster. Untouchable Rating: 6/10

Marc-Andre Gragnani: Up until his call-up last season, I had completely written off the possibility of Gragnani being on the Sabres roster. His offensive game was NHL-calibur, but defensively, he was a train-wreck. However, during his last call-up, he was very impressive. For the first time since Brian Campbell was here, the Sabres had a competent power play quarterback and Gragnani was also contributing at even-strength offensively and *gasp* defensively. Gragnani also managed to lead the team in points in the playoffs, putting up seven points in seven games. The caveat here is that we’ve seen plenty of one-hit wonder around here and the rest league over the years, so we cannot get too enamored with what he did during this call-up as he is still largely unproven and should be moved for an upgrade on the roster if the opportunity presents itself. What we can do though is open up to the idea of Gragnani being on the team next year playing on the 3rd pairing and getting plenty of time on the power play. He’s come a long way folks. Untouchable Rating: 5/10

Shaone Morrisonn: When I found out that the Sabres had signed Morrisonn, I was pretty happy. I thought they had found a good partner for Tyler Myers. While he was with the Capitals, Morrisonn played with Mike Green and played the role of the stay-at-home-defenseman while Green jumped up into the play on offense shift after shift and he performed his job well. Naturally, I thought he’d be a good fit with Myers because Myers likes to do similar things as Green on offense from the blueline and he’s better defensively than Green is. Boy, was I wrong. In most games, Morrisonn was slow, a catalyst for pinning the puck in the Sabres end of the ice, and he didn’t mesh well with Myers. As the season went on, Morrisonn found himself in the press box several times. Going into this season, Morrisonn has a $2,075,000 cap hit and he probably won’t crack the lineup seeing as he plays the left-side and there are four defensemen (Gragnani, Weber, Regehr, and Leopold) ahead of him that play the left-side (five if you count Sekera who can play the left-side, but is better suited for the right-side). He still has value as a 3rd pairing guy to other teams around the league, but he’s pretty expendable on this team. Untouchable Rating: 2/10

Mike Weber: Weber’s an interesting case. Before the arrival of Regehr, Weber’s skill-set was the only one of its kind on the roster (physical defensive-defenseman), meaning he had plenty of value to the Sabres. I still think he does have a good amount of value to the Sabres, but not as much in my opinion. Like most young players, Weber struggled to find consistency in his game and was a big liability on the ice when his game was going bad. He also had a flair for taking dumb penalties. All that aside, I think Weber will be a solid 3rd pairing defenseman at the least. However, with ownership taking the shackles off of the front office, Regier might be more inclined to getting a more proven defenseman with Weber’s skill-set like he just did by trading for Regehr. Untouchable Rating: 5/10