He looked really good. He can definitely skate, his positioning seemed sound (although I think we can agree that games are not like drills), and for someone still growing, he seems to have a good handle on his body. There's absolutely zero awkwardness about him. But he's very young. And he's very skinny. I watched a few of his games during the Memorial Cup and while it was clear that he was a stand-out, it was also clear that juniors is very, very different from the NHL. The NHL will be much faster and much more powerful. In street clothes, Myers is a bean pole even after putting on weight. I really question whether he's going to be ready to stand up to grown men with plenty of NHL experience.
I know Bucky Gleason has said many times that he doesn't see any reason not to play Myers up next season because hey, lots of teenagers have been successful in the NHL and then he reels off a list of people. First of all, I think any time a list starts with the name "Sidney Crosby" we have to stop and take into consideration that that's probably a pretty special group of players. Second of all, for every teenager that has come in and immediately been successful, there's a bunch of players who were brought up too young and who really struggled both with the NHL game and with the expectations heaped upon them. Some of them eventually straightened themselves out, but some of them had serious setbacks. Myers certainly isn't going to come in with Crosby level expectations, but he's not going to fly under the radar either, especially not in Buffalo. On one hand, fans are talking about being able to live with his mistakes, on the other hand they're talking about him being the next Zdeno Chara. Not even Zdeno Chara was Zdeno Chara until he was much older and physically mature than Myers is. Conventional wisdom has always been that defensemen mature more slowly than forwards.
If the Sabres start Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Chris Butler next season is Myers' inexperience going to make much difference to the on-ice product? Probably not. Even without him the defensive corp is going to be very young. But I'm not sure "How will it affect the team?" is as important a question as "How will it affect Myers?" How will he handle it if players are flying past him or pushing him around? How will he adapt to the opposition playing at a much higher skill level than his competition this past season? If he struggles, how will he deal with fans complaining - as you know they will - that he's not as good as they were led to believe? I think the Sabres have always had the right idea when it comes to bringing prospects along slowly, giving them time to grow up physically and mentally and emotionally. I know with the salary cap and the lower free agency age, that has to change some - you really have to take advantage of players while they're on their entry level contracts - and I know the Sabres are in a unique spot with Myers because he can't start in Portland which is what they would probably do with him if they could. I'm just not sure it's as simple as "Oh, what the hell, the team's gonna suck anyway."
Don't get me wrong. I like what I've seen of Myers. I love that he's said very directly that his goal is to make the Sabres and he doesn't see any reason why he can't. I hope he does make an immediate impact and I hope he does have the mental strength and maturity to know that struggling is just part of being a young defensemen in the NHL. But I do worry about him and I do worry that we're asking too much of him too soon.
On a totally different note, Kate and I have been arguing good-naturedly (mostly) about Chris Butler - or "Butts" as she's taken to calling him - for a number of months now. Unbeknownst to the other, we both started really taking a liking to him and she has repeatedly insisted that I can't like him, I have to like someone else. She's been very against him becoming next in line as my favorite player. (Hank will, of course, be number one as long as he's in Buffalo but I can count. If you add Weber and Myers to Tallinder, Lydman, Rivet, Sekera, Butler, Paetsch and Montador you end up with more d-men than you have spots. Someone's gotta go and a girl needs to be prepared for such things.) I assured her that no final decision had been made because I had really liked Weber on his call-up at the end of the 2007-2008 season and needed to see more of him.
Kate and I met up at prospect camp today and about halfway through, I turned to her and said, "I have to admit, I'm pretty drawn to Mike Weber."
After prospect camp, I went to the Bisons game. As I was making my way to the parking lot at the end of the night, I noticed a big tour bus outside the stadium. Didn't really look that closely at it, just figured it was a youth group or something. My phone buzzed so I looked down at it, continuing to walk, and I, of course, bumped into someone. I said, "Oh, excuse me," and looked up and it was... Mike Weber! That focused my brain and I realized all the baby Sabres were getting on the big bus. Mike nodded and said, "No problem." But I think it's a sign that I made the right choice. It's like Kate said (again, gleefully), he pretty much chose ME. How can I refuse?