Thursday, May 20, 2010

Hank and Toni, Toni and Hank

Like all Henrik Tallinder fans (there are legions of us, I tell you!), I've been pondering this for a while, and reading Kate's blurb about it tonight has me thinking about it again: What do the Sabres do with Tallinder and Toni Lydman in the off-season?  Re-sign Hank, re-sign Toni, or let them both walk?

I said this in the comments of Kate's blog and I'll repeat it here.  Thinking practically, I can totally see re-signing Toni and letting Hank walk.  All told, Toni has been more consistent over the course of his contract.  His highs haven't been as high as Hank's highs, but his lows haven't been as low.  He's a little more physical which is something the team as currently assembled is short on.  He's a little more under the radar so he'll probably be a little cheaper although I think the money will be close enough that it's not going to be a huge determining factor when it comes to the two of him.  He's certainly been more durable.  Toni shows up and does what he's supposed to do, gives you a funny quote, and then goes home.  While he's good for a handful of mind-staggeringly bad turnovers a season, I think he's been unfairly abused by too many fans the last few seasons.

I think there are more question marks with Hank and I think some of the reasons to keep him are a little less concrete.  How much do you take into consideration his chemistry with Tyler Myers this past season?  Myers is probably good enough to learn to play with anyone, but I don't know, chemistry is a funny thing.  How many times in the last two years did Lindy Ruff try to split up Hank and Toni only to discover that neither one of them played as well with someone else as they did with each other?  Hank has said some interesting things in the aftermath of the playoffs about getting his head on straight, fixing himself mentally, finding a better balance between his personal life and work.  Now maybe fixing himself mentally means telling himself, "For the love of Pete, Hank, it's a contract year.  Get it together."  (Concern over this season being the result of a contract year is completely valid.)  But maybe it means more.  Did something finally kick in this season that he wasn't quite getting before?  Or did he just figure out something that was causing him problems last season?  I don't know.  I think re-signing Hank is arguably a bigger risk than re-signing Toni, but I think the potential reward is greater.  If he and Myers continue to play together the way they did this past season, the Sabres have a legitimate top pairing for the next couple of years while some of the baby d-men get some NHL experience.  I also think Hank at his best is better than Toni at his best, but now that I've written that I have to admit, I'm wondering if that's just the fan in me talking.

As sad as I would be to see Hank go somewhere else, I will admit that I'm more worried about the Sabres failing to re-sign either of them.  I think that would be a mistake.  It's 1:26 a.m. and I'm far too lazy to look this up right now (sorry, Mike - I'll look for it tomorrow, I promise) but during the Boston series Mike Harrington wrote a blog post about how both teams were relying heavily on two defensive pairings.  For the Sabres, Tallinder-Myers and Lydman-Montador were carrying a bulk of the minutes.  If you let Tallinder and Lydman both walk, you're losing two of your top four defensemen.  In that case, I think the Sabres have to sign or trade for a veteran d-man.  I'm excited about Mike Weber finally coming up but I think it's unfair and probably unwise to expect him to step right into that kind of playing time.  That would be fine except that the Sabres already need at least one good forward, preferably a couple, and a more offensive d-man to work on the power play.  How much are they going to have to pay or give up for all of those things?  I think it makes more sense to give the money to a guy who you already know works in your line-up (assuming that they're on the same page as far as money and years go which is, of course, not a given).  I'll be happiest if Hank stays - and yes, that statement is riddled with sentiment - but really I just want one of them to stay.

On a somewhat related note, in light of the possibility of Hank leaving, I've been having a lot of conversations with a variety of people about maybe having to choose a new favorite player.  I've been avoiding thinking about that too much until I have to so I've been surprised to discover that everyone seems to think they already know who my replacement favorite is.  I'd think they were crazy but everyone - and this is, I don't know, five or six different people - has named the same guy.  I had no idea that I'd been that obvious about anyone beyond Hank, and while I was a little taken aback at first, I have to admit this guy makes sense.

So let's get interactive.  I have two questions for you.  One, if you're the Sabres, what do you do with Hank and Toni?  (And don't worry about offending my senses.  I can take it, I promise.  As long as you don't call Hank ugly.  That's decidedly untrue so in that case, I'll know you're just starting with me.)  Two, if it comes to it, who do you think is in the running to be my next favorite Sabre?  Who's the next guy in the Top Shelf header?


Katebits said...

I just wrote this in my comment section, but since we seem to be having this conversation in tandem tonight, I'll say it here too:

Truthfully, the idea of re-signing Hank is a little too reminiscent of re-signing Tim Connolly for my taste. It’s not really Hank’s fault, but I don’t have the stomach for another “This will be awesome if he plays to his potential,” contract. With Toni Lydman, you know what you’re getting.

All things being equal between them, this is the heart of the issue for me. It's time to change the character of the Sabres. I don't think the Sabres should take anymore chances on the guys in that room. With Toni, they know exactly what they're getting and more importantly, they can plan around it. I don't think that's true with Hank.

But, I totally agree that Darcy should sign one of them, and in the end, the decision will probably be made to keep the guy who will sign for the least amount of money, for the least amount of years. I've got no real beef with that.

I would tell you who your new favorite Sabre will be, but you already know who I think it is and I don't want to influence the results of your poll. :D

joe said...

I'm sorry, but there is no debate. You resign Tallinder. Wasn't Lydman benched at one point this year? Yes, he played well in the playoffs and gave Zdeno Chara some sort of f#$k off motion in the playoffs, but he was far more inconsistent than your homeboy.

I think Hank got healthy and that is what made him have a nice bounce back year. Yes, playing with Myers had a lot to do with it, but Hank was fine. Now, if Hank could help out Myers because he was a vet, shouldn't he be able to do the same for Webber?

BTW, if the Sabres let both of these guys go, I'm declaring that Darcy was wrong, and I was right. :)

joe said...

Oh, and I think your header should be Darcy because you think he's always right.

Heather B. said...

Kate, it's so funny that you say that because in the shower this morning (hey, I said I've been thinking about this a lot) I stumbled across the Tim Connolly analogy myself, and I can totally see that. There are a lot of similarities not just in potential vs. output but in health concerns (though not to the same extreme). Honestly, if it wasn't Hank, I'd probably feel the same way.

I suspect you're right though that it'll come down to which guy is willing to stay for less.

I think Hank got healthy and that is what made him have a nice bounce back year.

I mentioned that in the original post - I think a full off-season and season of work without having to take time off to recover from an injury WAS huge for him - but I took it out. In a pro-Hank argument, it seemed best to avoid talking about injuries altogether. :P

(But on a side note, thank you for giving Hank some credit for this last season. I'm sure that be pairing with Myers was a big deal for him hockey-wise and psychologically (a "Hank, we're trusting you to play with our best defensive prospect" kind of thing), but I'm tired of hearing, "Hank was only good this season because of Myers." Hank gave Myers season-long support on the ice that he wouldn't have received from Rivet, Montador, Sekera, or Butler, or Lydman. IMO.)

And Joe, I don't always think Darcy is right, but a Darcy Regier banner would be entertaining in how much it would annoy some people. :)

Steve said...

Honestly I think they should keep Lydman, but not because he's better. Hank is definitely the better defenseman and someone is going to give him big bucks. Lydman is also really good but like you said he's a bit more under the radar and I think we can afford to re-sign him without breaking the bank. I like Hank but this team has other needs.

Mark B said...

I would like to have one of them back, but I don't think I want both. I'm afraid that would jeapordize Weber's spot. But if they can't re-sign either, they definitely need to sign a veteran d-man as you noted.

Jochen is your new favorite. No contest. But maybe I should be barred from voting since I live with you. That's just the sense I get from you.

Meg said...

I don't care too much about which one they re-sign as long as they re-sign one of them but I lean toward Tallinder.

I think that Tallinder wasn't as bad for most of his contract as many fans need to think. He had some excellent stretches mixed in with some bad ones. I like Lydman as well but I think Weber replaces his skill-set to a greater extent than he replaces Tallinder's.

Bowl of Pork said...

For my money, assuming you could only keep one, I'd keep Hank. Toni may have been more consistent (maybe) but I'll take Hank's chemistry any day. Whenever Toni gets paired with somebody else I find myself worrying about the results. When Hank gets paired with somebody else I'm usually pleased. His own performance might not be so great but I think the bump he gives his partner outweighs it.

That said, I'm having a hard time finding a veteran D-man that we could replace either with reasonably. In the absence of a clear step up the ladder I say keep both!

And yeah, I second the Yo-Yo vote.

Gambler said...

This is one of those instances where I'm glad I'm not the one who has to make these decisions. I think there are good arguments for signing either one, so basically as long as we don't lose them both, I'll be happy.

My first thought was Jochen, too, but I figured that was just because I know that he's the only right choice when it comes to favorite Sabres. But now that Mark has spoken up, I will, too. Maybe I'll go on record as hoping we sign Hank, just so I don't have to share. ;)

Ebscer said...

You keep Tallinder. No question about it. We need to carry over at least one decent line from last year.

The Montador/Lydman pairing never looked any good to me. I was always worried when they were out there on the ice, and would be very happy to see both of them go.

We need more depth on defense, and to absolutely not pass up on Tallinder

Phil said...

You keep Lydman. He has a handful of truly awful hand grenades a season, yes. But he's also a much more reliable defenseman than Tallinder.

Tallinder plays up to or down to the play of his partner, and this season he was paired with the wunderkind, so he looked phenomenal. It's also a contract year for him, and players always look fantastic in a contract year. But he was still useless in close to the net and was still getting beat along the boards on a regular basis. Plus, he's pretty useless on the PK.

Lydman, meanwhile, has been consistent. He's showed us the same solid defensive performance season in and season out, regardless of his partner. Honestly, the ONLY time he and Tallinder looked good was in 2005/2006. After that, Lydman carried Tallinder.

@Ebscer - really? Which pair played the best down the stretch and through the playoffs? Lydman/Montador were the Sabres' rocks in the playoffs, whereas Tallinder and Myers (while getting a pile of ice-time) didn't do too well at all.

Heather B. said...

Gambler, if Hank leaves and Jochen is my next guy, he and I will both know that you're his number one girl! :)

Phil, I'd agree that Lydman-Montador were the best pairing down the stretch and through the first few couple of games of the playoffs. There were long stretches during the regular season where they were scary though. I didn't like Montador at all until near the end of the season.

Plus, he's pretty useless on the PK.

I'm not really sure what to say other than, I totally disagree. I also think you're completely short-changing Hank's contribution to the Tallinder-Myers pairing. Myers was huge, obviously, but I really don't see him playing that strongly with anyone else in the defensive corp.

I like Lydman as well but I think Weber replaces his skill-set to a greater extent than he replaces Tallinder's.

Meg that's a good point. I think that's true. And really, I think Hank and Toni have both been given a much harder time by fans than they deserved.

I'm glad to see that so many people want to keep at least one of them.

jerome said...

good debate..ha.. keep writing real and interesting..

CriminallyVu1gar said...

Personally, I'm not real fond of the pricetag that either comes with. I tend to lean more towards Lydman because he is the more physical defenseman, but I wouldn't be sad to see both of them leave.