If you want the perfect definition of a rocky season in the NHL, look no further than the Buffalo Sabres. In 22 games, Buffalo has just five wins. Their 11 points are good enough for last in the entire league. On top of that, they’ve dealt with hefty suspensions for questionable hits by Patrick Kaleta and John Scott, respectively. The disaster that is the team’s first month eventually resulted in a massive front office upheaval. GM Darcy Regier and first-year coach Ron Rolston were fired. The team brought in Ted Nolan as the replacement coach, while Pat LaFontaine was given the title of President of Hockey Operations.
One of the things LaFontaine is now focusing on is an evaluation of the team’s current talent. Its doubtful the Sabres pull off a remarkable turnaround, so the front office needs to determine if there are any possible trade chips on their current roster they can utilize to build for the future.
A player who may see himself as possible trade bait is defenseman Tyler Myers, who’s been an enigma for the team for the past few seasons. He impressed many around the league during the 2009-10 season, earning himself the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. Since, though, he’s yet to encapsulate the playing ability that made him one of the league’s top young defenders. His numbers have been on a steady decline, and he doesn’t seem to have the defensive prowess he once showed.
LaFontaine was asked about the team’s stance on Myers. With the Sabres already trading franchise player Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders, its very evident that nobody is safe. The new team president stated, though, the team is willing to try and get Myers back on track.
“The thing that encourages me is that [Myers has] already proven what he can do,” said LaFontaine. “We need to create the environment so that he has everything he needs to go back where he was. If it’s something where we’ve tried everything to give him that environment [yet fails], then maybe a change is what is needed.”
You don’t have to read between the lines to figure out what the “change” LaFontaine is talking about is. More than a few teams are in the market for a young, big-bodied defenseman like Myers, who may just as likely be willing to work with him to get him playing up to par again.
At the very least, LaFontaine sounds like he and the rest of the Buffalo front office want to make sure they don’t give up on Myers too early. Former Islanders GM Mike Milbury still hears all about how he traded away a young defenseman named Zdeno Chara, who has since established himself as possibly the best defenseman in the league for the Boston Bruins. The Sabres will hardly want to have the same type of egg on their faces if they deal Myers without giving him every chance they can.
Myers fate, like many players on the Sabres, will no doubt be affected by the team’s overall performance. LaFontaine may say he wants to create opportunities for Myers, but if losses keep piling up, his hand may be forced to deal the young blue-liner.