Injuries are always going to happen during the season, but the Sabres are probably wondering what graveyard the First Niagara Center is built on. Buffalo will be without Robyn Regehr and another unknown forward tonight against Washington thanks to separate injuries.
With those two out of action that brings the Sabres injury tally up to nine players. The list of those out for Buffalo is just mind-boggling: Regehr, Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis, Brad Boyes, Cody McCormick, Mike Weber, Patrick Kaleta, and the mystery ninth player.
All of a sudden, Buffalo’s blowout loss to Columbus makes a lot more sense.
With that kind of manpower on the sidelines, the Sabres are desperately going to need their remaining top players to carry the load. Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville have been great this year but if ever there was a time for Ville Leino to get his game figured out this is it. Injuries always seem to hurt the Sabres at the worst times, but they’ve never had this many at once.
For now, the Sabres might want to invest in an exorcist or a shaman to help rid them of this injury hex.
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His signing really made the Sharks look smart. With a strong .919 career save percentage in the regular season and a fantastic .923 playoff save percentage, the 26-year-old has succeeded more or less whenever called upon.
That brings us to the interesting part, though: there’s not a lot of tape, so to speak, on Jones as an NHL goalie.
The 2015-16 season was just his third of NHL action, and he’s now at just 99 regular season appearances. That fantastic run of 24 playoff games makes up a significant chunk of his overall experience at the top level.
Jones has excelled when tested, but if you have any concern with him, it’s just that he’s relatively inexperienced at carrying that No. 1 workload.
He started in 65 games during the 2015-16 season, towering over his work as a Kings backup (15 appearances in 2014-15, 19 in 2013-14).
On the bright side, the Sharks have additional evidence that he’s not just a flash in the pan.
There’s only one Brent Burns, that much is clear. Both on and off the ice, there’s no one like him.
So, what do you pay a guy that’s always imitated, never duplicated?
That’s the dilemma the San Jose Sharks will be faced with in the coming weeks/months.
If you were impressed with Bruns’ 17 goals and 60 points in 2014-15, then his 27 goals and 75 points in 2015-16 was out of this world.
Over the last three seasons, not many forwards have produced as much as Burns, let alone defensemen.
Since being acquired by San Jose in 2011, Burns has hit double digit goals in all but one year (he scored nine in 30 games in 2012-13).
“You know how we feel about Brent. Phenomenal year,” GM Doug Wilson said back in June. “When we acquired him it was a big piece to acquire. There’s no doubt he’s important to us. We want him. I think he loves being here. Those conversations will take place shortly.”
Time to talk numbers…
It sounds like Burns enjoy playing in San Jose, so him taking a bit of a discount is possible. But if we look at the closest comparable…
Dustin Byfuglien, who is 31-years-old like Burns, signed a five-year $38 million contract with the Jets this winter. That comes out to an AAV of $7.6 million.
Both are big, physically imposing and have put up some great numbers in the last few years.
Over the last three seasons, Byfuglien has scored 19, 18 and 20 goals for a total of 57. Burns has scored 27, 17 and 22 for a total of 66.
That’s not a huge difference over three years, but Byfuglien wasn’t coming off a 27-goal season and a trip to the Stanley Cup Final when he signed his contract.
Although we haven’t really heard much regarding Burns’ contract demands, it wouldn’t be shocking for the final cap number to be in the 8 or 9 million range.
Poll: Will the Sharks make it back to the Stanley Cup Final?
The Stanley Cup hangover is real. Although the Sharks didn’t win it, those veterans went four rounds and played in some grueling games along the way. Will they be in tip-top shape come October?
On a more positive note, those veterans are surrounded by some good young players. Logan Couture has developed into a go-to guy, Tomas Hertl proved to be a difference maker at times last year, Joonas Donskoi scored some big goals in the playoffs and prospects like Mirco Mueller, Nikolay Goldobin and Timo Meier are on their way.
Between the pipes, Martin Jones‘ first season as a starting goaltender went pretty well.
“A special group,” San Jose coach Peter DeBoer said after losing in the Stanley Cup Final, per the team’s website . “But only one team can win. That doesn’t take anything away from what those guys accomplished. I don’t think anyone should ever question the leadership or the character or the will of the group of men in there. I think it’s been misplaced for a decade.
“I would hope they answered some questions. Let’s be honest. Not many people had us making the playoffs. Not many people had us beating [the Los Angeles Kings in the first round]. On an on. I thought a lot of questions were answered by that group.”
It won’t be easy for them to make it back to the final. They’ll have some stiff competition in Los Angeles, Anaheim, Dallas, Chicago, St. Louis, Nashville and any other team that might surprise.
So, can this “special group” do it all over again next season?