Photo courtesy of Hickling Images
I have two, but both are based on how Reinhart is managed by both the Sabres and his management.
First, I want Reinhart to carry the second line. Yes, it depends on how Kruger deploys Reinhart, but they need enough skill to take the burden off Eichel and Skinner as expectations for them are already high enough. Add a bad 2nd line to that and the weight of the offense will solely rest on Eichel and Skinner. That’s why everyone and their cousin are calling for splitting up Reinhart and Eichel.
Second, I want Reinhart extended before the season ends. We all see what’s happening with players like Marner, Point, Raantanen, Laine, Connor, etc. Don’t let it come to that.
GM Jason Botterill already waited a long time just to sign him to a bridge contract, which now looks like a really bad move. I get why he wasn’t locked up long term on the Sabres side of things, but sometimes, you just need to take a chance and, to me, Reinhart was worthy of that chance.
This goes with what I mentioned with Ruotsolainen, whom I believe will be in direct competition with Smith. Make the Sabres, but make it by earning it. Smith has been forgotten about a bit, but he was basically at a point per game in Rochester last season. Scoring 5 less points in 4 less games than Olofsson, you have to keep Smith in mind for your projected bottom 6 forwards.
Continue to work on his craft as a 4th liner. He’ll probably never live up to his top-20 draft pick status, but he’s always had the dog-on-raw-meat mentality that the Sabres need. If he can be solid in the faceoff circle, shutdown other team’s top two lines and add some offense, Sabres fans should be happy.
Solidify his position as a 4th liner. Same thing as Girgensons, except I’m not exactly jazzed about having a Girgensons – Larsson – Okposo line, so something there needs to change. To me, it’ll be a battle between Larsson and Girgensons for playing time.
The logjam on defense will be felt throughout the entire organization. I believe Hickey will fall victim to this as he’ll probably stick around the 35 games range or even less as their depth has only increased since last season. He will find time filling in for Jacob Bryson and Casey Fitzgerald when Amerks Head Coach Chris Taylor sees fit to put them in the press box.
So, with that said, shutting down opposing forwards and get the puck out of the defensive zone is where Hickey excels in his game and should continue to perfect that. He’ll never be one to light it up offensively, but if he can move the puck up to his forwards and prevent chances, then he’ll be a serviceable defenseman for the Amerks.
Embrace your role. I’m not talking about him being a leader, he seems like a great guy, but he’s not a top 6 forward anymore. No one wants a bottom 6 forward to make $6 million a year, but that’s the case and we have to deal with it.
He’s good along the boards and below the dots, but his lack of speed has been made evident after his scary concussion injury a few years ago then again when he took a hard right cross from Tony DeAngelo in February.
All the blame can’t be put on Okposo, but he needs to find where he can be most effective on this team and a lot of that rest on Ralph Kruger’s shoulders to put him in that position.
40 points. There it is. in 82 games last season, he put up 35 points. Raising the goal to 40 points for an offensive defenseman in the prime of his career is a no brainer to me.
Other goals are to extend his contract with Buffalo if his demands are within reason and to find a partner to play with. I think Dahlin – Montour can be lethal, but Dahlin would have to help Montour out on the defensive end.
Honestly, Fitzgerald confuses me a bit. I like his ability to move the puck and his steadiness, but I’m not exactly sure where he’ll end up in the Amerks lineup. I think he’ll find himself in a suit watching some games, but if not, he’ll be somewhere in the bottom four. Having players like Redmond, Gilmour, Borgen and Hickey to take off some pressure for the first year pro will benefit Fitzgerald.
He won’t necessarily be sheltered, but he’s not getting forced into a top four role immediately. As long as he provides secondary scoring from the back end and is able to keep pucks out of his net, he’ll find himself garnering more responsibility.
Only playing 27 ECHL games last season, Johansson will hopefully get more starts in Cincinnati. This year is more for getting reps than it is working on something specific. The tweet below displays my thought process for the trajectory of Jonas Johansson’s next two seasons.
He’s an RFA at the end of the season, but if they want Johansson to take the next step, he’d look good backing up UPL next season.