As I sit here in a dome of absolute sadness and depression due to the fact that I will be in Philly today at 5pm, but not at the game, I am attempting to absorb as much Sabres knowledge as I possibly can. I was not planning on posting anything this morning besides a reminder for a meet-up of the game watch tonight (information forthcoming), but Bucky Gleason has a fantastic article up this morning on defenseman Chris Butler that I needed to comment on.
It has been easy to dismiss Butler as yet another young defenseman the Sabres have brought up through the system that could simply not cut it. They possibly showed some potential, but never achieved at the level that us fans thought we were going to see. I'm not so much talking about someone like Dmitri Kalinin (seriously, fuck him though), but more so names like Funk, Card, and Paetsch. On a higher level, and I know I'll take some major flack for this, I also mean names like Weber, Sekera, and Gragnani (Yes I understand they are all playing well now, but you cannot tell me that not one of these players hasn't sent you into fits over the past several seasons). These are all draft picks that came up through Rochester or Portland that never seemed to make their mark. That's why when Tyler Myers busted through door the last season, we were all giddy as hell. The Sabres FINALLY had a young, sure-thing defenseman.
The thing is, I absolutely thought Butler had the potential to be a top defenseman in the league. During his rookie year in 2008-09, he didn't put up many points, but he was a +11 in 47 games and he skated hard every game I saw him in. In an odd way, he reminded me a bit of Jay McKee. Then to start the 2009-10 season, he was playing lights out. Myers was the major story, but I am assuming that many of you, like me, noticed that Butler was making a nice little mark for himself. In fact, ESPN put out a story a few weeks into the season naming the top 75 defensemen in the NHL. No surprise, Buffalo had a big ZERO on the list. However, at the end of the article, there was an addendum naming Myers and Butler number 76 and 77. Myers AND Butler. To open the season, he was playing well enough to get that type of national attention. (By the way, if you can find a link to that article, please leave it in the comments or e-mail us. I scoured the internet trying to find it, but so far no luck.)
The rest of the season was not fantastic for CB. He ended up a -15 and those healthy scratches that have been so common this season, were starting to rear their ugly head. Butler had fallen off, and I started to get the feeling he was going to end up falling off the roster altogether, with young defenseman like T.J. Brennan and Drew Schiestel coming through the system. I simply felt disappointed. Another young player that I had so much hope for was sucking hard AGAIN. But if you read anything I write, or know me in person, I do not have much patience. These defensemen are all young guys trying to make a mark, and as Bucky notes, even Brian Campbell went through some major growing pains before he became the star we all knew and loved. I'm hoping that the Chris Butler that is playing now, is the guy that will be around for years to come. This pairing of Myers and CB is something special. Then again, I'm no expert. In my younger years I once uttered the words, "Taylor Pyatt is a future All-Star". Forgive me Lindy, for I'm a douche-bag.