The biggest, most broken record of the 2016-17 regular season of the Buffalo Sabres has been the deficiency on defense. New general manager, Jason Botterill has admitted that his new team has “good, young defensemen,” which alienates a fair amount of blueliners that played. The former Pittsburg executive has started the mend by signing Victor Antipin out of the Kontinental Hockey League, a player who, from the outside, appears to fit Botterill’s vision of the type of player the team needs. There are other possibilities for future acquisitions for the team and a name mentioned on social media, and on “The Instigators” on WGR/MSG, has been Karl Alzner, a pending free agent from the Washington Capitals.
To some, the potential is appealing based on the team he is coming from but if I was in charge, I am looking elsewhere. If Botterill is looking to improve puck possession, I do not see that coming from Alzner, unless he plays on the bottom pair. He played significant time against top players in the Metropolitan Division, ending the year with a 47.3 Corsi-For Percentage (CF%) at 5v5, according to Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com.* In hind-sight, maybe that was ill-advised by the Capitals coaching staff but are the Sabres willing to overpay for another 3rd pair defenseman? With Zach Bogosian still on a lengthy deal, I do not see that happening.
It could be argued that Rasmus Ristolainen has similar, if not worse, possession stats (43.8 CF% at 5v5).* The biggest difference, however, was that fact that Buffalo (47.3 CF%) was significantly outshot on a regular basis in comparison to Washington (51.8 CF%). If the Sabres were over 50% in CF% and it were the same for the 22 year-old defenseman, I would find myself more worried.* But at 28 and on a team with dynamic forwards, and spending most of his ice-time at even-strength with John Carlson, you would think it would be better for #27.
The truth is that most players CF% improved without Alzner on the ice.* This, again, is similar to Buffalo’s Finnish defender but when comparing teams, it is not even close when looking at the overall results as Carlson’s CF% improved dramatically when apart (46.1-54.4).* Washington, the President’s Trophy winner, is clearly the better team right now than the Sabres and Alzner did not prove to be a solution in the playoffs. Not known to be an offensive player, he still does not appear to be what Botterill has on his mind when it comes to fixing this team.
There are, frankly, better solutions to the defense issue in Buffalo, NY. The biggest roadblock is that teams are hesitant to trade the type of defender Botterill is likely to pursue. If these teams are going to part with their better players, it could cost them more than Evander Kane. Paul Hamilton, of WGR550, believes it would take Sam Reinhart and some to pull in the defenseman they need, which would really have to be worth it for the young GM. Will there be a move? Who knows but seeking Karl Alzner will not fix their defensive and puck possession woes.
*Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com used for all statistics