Taking a look at the Sabres' D

When the season starts, the Sabres will boast one of the best defensive corps in the NHL. Newcomers Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff will bolster the top two defensive pairings.  Defense is at a premium in the "new NHL" and adding players of the caliber of a Regehr or an Ehrhoff will provide immediate dividends.  With talents like Tyler Myers, Andrej Sekera, Jordan Leopold and Marc Andre Gragnani already in place, Ryan Miller will feel very secure in net.  

With the talent in place on the back end, it creates many options when it comes to defensive pairings.  Let's take a look at some likely pairings.  

Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff - These two will make an excellent pairing; they both possess good size and play a steady two way game.  With Myers and Ehrhoff on the ice, opposing forwards will find it tough to make plays when in the zone. Additionally, both shoot well and make good outlet passes.  

Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold - Instead of having two good two-way defensemen, this line features stay-at-home rear guard Robyn Regehr with offensive specialist Jordan Leopold.  Leopold is good in his own end, but could lean on Regehr for defensive support. Freshly signed up-and-comer Marc Andre Gragnani could also pair with Regehr.

Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera will likey hold down the bottom pair.  They made up the second pair much of last season and given the reduced role, it can be expected that they will excel there.

It was just announced today that Marc Andre Gragnani signed to a one-year contract with the Sabres.  Financial terms have yet to be announced.  Gragnani really stepped his game up in the playoffs this year.  He led the Sabres in points in the playoffs this past year and showed poise, skill, smarts and a strong defensive game.  If he can keep up that kind of production, he will be an intregal part of the Sabres' defense for many years to come.

The Sabres' defense will be much improved this year.  Ryan Miller and Jhonas Enroth will be significantly better supported this year in comparison to last season.  The combination of an improved defense and already very good goaltending will be difficult for teams to score against.  

8 Comments

Tanner Kovach's picture

The Sabres will definitely have one of the best D corps in the league. Ehrhoff may be signed for too long but he is a really good offensive defenseman and Regehr is one of the most BA players in the league. If meyers gets back to rookie form, watch out. Its crazy to think gragnani might be the seventh D after those playoffs. Bit with his new contract they are way over cap and better shed some quick.

George Prax's picture

GOtta say that's a decent looking d-corps, but that Ehrhoff deal is still ridiculous.

jcamp28's picture

Sabre's brass knew they had to improve the defense after the workout Ryan Miller had in the p/o's. They did a good job, especially considering how much of a premium quality defenders come at in the new nhl.

George Prax's picture

I actually don't think I could blame them for making the deal. Like you said they needed to acquire a big-time D and they did what they had to to get them, something the Sabres haven't really been known for in the past. I just hope it doesn't bite them in the ass in a couple of years.

jcamp28's picture

$4M is a reasonable cap hit and if they're up against the cap with Ehrhoff's production down and maybe he becomes a bit of a defensive liability a low budget team needing to get to the cap floor may be interested due to the little amount of actual money he is due at the end of his contract. in the first year he will receive 25% of the total money.

George Prax's picture

That is, of course, assuming the next CBA doesn't punish teams for front-loaded deals.

Marco Perruzza's picture

Please take my comment with a grain of salt since I'm a Leafs fan. I don't rate Regehr and Ehrhoff as highly as you do. Regehr has struggled with pace since the lockout ended. He has not been the same defensive rock without hooking and holding. Regehr is not fleet of foot and in a division with speedsters like Plekanic, Gionta, Marchand, Cammalleri, Kessel, Kulemin, and Grabovski it'll be difficult for him to keep up. There was also the fact that Kiprusoff cleaned up plenty of his messes over the years. As for Ehrhoff, putting aside the second most ridiculous contract of the offseason (Leino's was the worst), he was the fourth best defenseman on a team that struggled defensively. Alex Edler, Dan Hamhuis and Kevin Bieska were above him in the depth chart for the Canucks and it speaks volumes that they chose to keep Bieska over him. He definitely can move the puck, but these two signings seem eerily familiar to when the Leafs signed Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina to fix their backend. Great article though, I look forward to Sabres-Leafs games this year.

jcamp28's picture

Regehr and Ehrhoff are not without flaws as players. But, I feel both players will excel with the right d pairing partner. Ehrhoff and Myers will be a strong combo, Regehr will need a speedy partner to help against faster forwards. Ryan Miller is just as capable of cleaning up messes as Kipper has been. Coaching will also play a factor and Lindy Ruff is one of the best in the game, so that will help. Ville Leino is overpaid given his production and experience (50 regular season NHL goals is not very impressive), but he was huge in the Flyers' cup run. Not totally defending the moves, the money was high for both players, but given the market these deals are par for the course.