(Note: This will be a series leading up to the start of the scheduled NHL season. I will look at each player who will definitely be, or could possibly be, on the opening day roster for the 2012-13 Sabres and speculate on their potential strengths and weaknesses during the year.)
TJ Brennan was the beneficiary of bad luck last season.
When the season began, Brennan was not very high on the Buffalo Sabres‘ defensive depth chart. With new acquisitions Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr starting their Sabres careers, and both Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani coming off impressive seasons (and postseason in Gragnani’s case), Brennan was the victim of the team’s defensive depth and left to develop in the AHL.
But, after injuries to Tyler Myers, Ehrhoff, Andrej Sekera and Weber, and then subsequently to call-up Brayden McNabb, Brennan’s number was finally called.
And he did not disappoint.
After an impressive run in Rochester of the AHL, scoring 30 points in 52 games, Brennan tallied a goal in 11 games with the Sabres, and had an even plus-minus.
But stats certainly do not tell the entire story with Brennan. He looked poised in most situations, especially when the pressure was on in the defensive zone. He made crisp first passes and was and still is an extremely strong skater. He has a lot of learning to do, mostly with the speed of the NHL game, but he showed he could live up to being the 31st-overall pick in the 2007 draft.
So what does the future hold for Brennan?
First and foremost, he’s nowhere near where he was on the Sabres’ depth chart last season. With the departure of Marc-Andre Gragnani, and the trade rumblings that keep bringing up the names of Jordan Leopold and Sekera, in terms of sheer bodies he will be close to the big club.
But beyond that, he earned himself a shot at the opening day roster. Is he likely to make it? Probably not. But it seems both he and McNabb will be the top defenseman in Rochester this upcoming year.
That means that it won’t take the entire defensive corps going down to injury to see Brennan on the ice for the Sabres this season. Even with Adam Pardy, do not be surprised to see Brennan as the second call-up behind McNabb this upcoming season.
Prediction: 45 games played, 4 goals and 9 assists in a prolonged injury role.