Very nice article about Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera by John Vogl in the Buffalo News today so I figure this is as good a day as any to bust out Why I Have Hope. I'm planning on this being the first in an ongoing off-season series so we'll see if it sticks.
Reason #1 Why I Have Hope for the Buffalo Sabres - Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera
Mike Weber and Andrej Sekera were one of the few highlights of the end of the season. Sekera had popped up in Buffalo a few times by then and while he did get a little stronger with every appearance, he suddenly looked like a guy who belonged in the NHL. And Weber was, for me, a total revelation. I haven't been watching hockey as long as some of you out there, but I don't think I've ever seen a defensive pairing, especially one so young, move to the NHL level and look so good.
I was especially impressed with Weber and Sekera because they were playing in important games - I mean, yes, the Sabres were pretty much out of the playoffs but they were theoretically fighting until the very end - and they were not playing soft minutes. Lindy Ruff didn't seem to be going out of his way to hide them from top lines, regular minutes, or special teams duty. In the twelve games they were both up, I know there were at least two games that went into overtime and Weber and Sekera were on the ice when both OTs started. Maybe I'm reading into things but I think that showed that Lindy had a lot of confidence in how they would handle themselves. (It was also maybe a message to Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman to get their garbage together fast.)
If they stay together - and I don't really see any reason to split them up unless they start to look overwhelmed although I am a little intrigued by the idea of mixing Tallinder-Lydman and Weber-Sekera - Weber and Sekera will also be exactly the kind of balanced pairing that the Sabres have had a tough time putting together over the last couple of seasons. Sekera seems to be a solid skating, puck-moving defenseman while Weber is a little bigger and a little more physical. If he grows into a Jay McKee like d-man, I think there will be a lot of happy Sabres fans out there.
I know, I know. Twelve games is a small sample size. With Drew Stafford we've seen that a great stint at the NHL level doesn't necessarily mean the transition to full-time NHLer is going to be smooth. I fully expect that there will be times when Weber and Sekera look overwhelmed or confused or just tired. But I'm optimistic. I'm encouraged by how well they've already looked and by the attitude they've expressed at prospect camp (we haven't made the team yet, nothing's set in stone, that's our only goal right now) and I am hopeful for their future, this coming year and in years to follow. Sekera will be Brian Campbell, Weber will be Jay McKee and all will be right with the world.
On an unrelated note, if you click on TBN link above, you'll find a video stuck in the middle of the story. I've come across these videos on the website before but this is the first time I've ever seen one so obviously planted. (Apologies if I'm behind the times on this. I usually flip through the paper version of TBN at work. Remember those?) I love it. I hardly ever watch the news on TV and if I do it's only to see some video/interviews during the sports - hey, there's a reason I write a hockey blog and not a political blog - and now I'll probably skip the news altogether. I was just starting to realize that I've already seen most of the interviews I see on the news on Sabres.com and now this? Bah. Forget you nightly news.
I noticed TBN videos starting to pop up toward the end of the Sabres season and there were definitely some people who seemed more comfortable than others. The first one I saw with John Vogl made me giggle a little. He wasn't awful by any means but he was clearly a print journalist trying to attempt another form of media. He acquits himself pretty well here though. I actually prefer his more natural delivery to the robotic talking heads of the local news. He seems very likable. (If he's a jackass please don't tell me. I want to live with my illusions.)