Ramblings: Early-Season Observations; Evander Kane Update; Kucherov Injury – Oct. 19

Michael Clifford

2021-10-19

We are a full week into the NHL season and it is still far, far too early to make any concrete determinations. Outside of injuries or demotions, fantasy rosters shouldn't have changed too much by this point. That doesn't mean there aren't signals we can look for, hoping it could lead to a positive development for our rosters down the road. In short, I just wanted to give my observations on the first week of NHL play.

Buffalo is not going to be horrific

One idea that I've come around on more and more over the last five years or so is that it's not necessarily the forwards that are responsible for offence. It isn't a new idea, and the concept of the defenceman jumping up in the play is nothing new. But my general theory is that when a team is completely bereft of puck movers on the blue line outside of maybe one or two options, it leaves too much heavy lifting for the forwards. Every defenceman, in some capacity, needs to be able to carry the puck and make the first pass.

When I look at Buffalo's blue line, I see a lot of puck movers. Dahlin, Miller, Jokiharju, Butcher, and Pysyk are all good in transition, in playmaking, or both. So while the Sabres will struggle to score this year due to a simple lack of high-end talent, it's not to say that they will be an abomination of a team as in years past. To my eyes, and by the stats, they're not giving up chance after chance like they have done in recent seasons, and I think it's partially because they have players who can effectively move the puck without turning it over. That is an underrated and valuable skill.

Buffalo won't be a good team, or a playoff team this year. But that doesn't mean they're going to be the 52-point team of 6-7 years ago, either. People need to remember that Zemgus Girgensons – pre-Eichel – was often the 1C. He's now on their fourth line. There have been improvements, they just need a lot more talent to move into the roster, especially up front.  

Montreal's puck movers on D

The Habs lost a lot in the offseason: two-thirds of their top line, Shea Weber, Carey Price, and Jesperi Kotkaniemi. With the loss of very good transition players like Kotkaniemi (yes, he had other flaws) and Danault, there would be additional pressure on the Montreal blue line to pick up some puck-moving slack. The problem being that Ben Chiarot and David Savard are not puck movers while Alex Romanov and Brett Kulak were healthy scratches at time last year. This isn't a playoff blue line without Weber and it's showed through the very early part of the season.

Jeff Petry is around, but like Buffalo teams in recent memory, having one or two puck movers on the blue line isn't enough. Every player, as mentioned, needs to have some basic transition skills, and a lot of these