Multiple media outlets are rumoring that there are trade talks that include the Minnesota Wild and the Buffalo Sabres with one name floating around: Defenseman Marco Scandella. Despite moves to bolster the Sabres blueline, most notably the signing of former KHLer, Viktor Antipin, and trading for Nathan Beaulieu, Jason Botterill claims they will continue to find ways to improve. Adding top-4 defensemen sounds like one way to do it, however, a potential move for the 27-year old defender appealing to Sabres fans. One question to ask is: do we really know him?
It is no secret that Buffalo’s new head coach, Phil Housley, intends for a system where the defense participate offensively and as part of the regular attack. Reviewing sheer point production, Beaulieu (24yo., 28 points) already has more points in a single season than Scandella. His even-strength stats are not overly impressive (48.5 CorsiFor%, 0.59 points per 60 minutes), however he saw much of his playing time with Matthew Dumba, who has a more offensive playing style.* Dumba is also a young player who is prone to mistakes, where Scandella was likely cleaning them up. And by looking at the statistics amongst the Wild defensemen, it does not appear that they were used as often in attack mode when comparing them to what Nashville asked of their defenders. So, Scandella’s role may have been different.
Most Sabres fans can admit that they have not watched Scandella play a minute of hockey so how do they know if he would work in the new Buffalo scheme? Matthew Coller, of ESPN1500 in Minnesota, describes the left-handed defender as a “solid all-around player. Some offense, some physical play, pretty smart player” and a “very good fit for Buffalo.” Matthew has seen Scandella play on a regular basis and would indicate red flags if they were apparent. The Sabres have had enough defensemen that are poor with the puck, making this testimony favorable if Scandella is indeed a candidate.
From an outside perspective, Marco Scandella appears to be a steady presence that can contribute in the offensive zone, a presence that is needed for the young defenders of the Buffalo Sabres. He can be in the top 4 and a better leader from a puck management standpoint than Zach Bogosian or Josh Gorges. Adding potential in Beaulieu and Antipin is nice, but Botterill landing Scandella can bring balance to a young group for them to thrive and be dangerous in Housley’s system.
*Statistics derived from stats.hockeyanalysis.com