When will the defensive draftees step up?



It's a typical paranoid day inside my head, where angst, mistrust, and insufferable self-righteous indignation continue to fashion their daily beat-down of positive thought, anticipation and optimism.

The Buffalo Sabres' selection of three defensemen with their top four draft picks last weekend is pouring kerosene onto that already tormented firefight. Thanks, fellas.

So, more blue-liners? Yeah, yeah, I hear you: you never know what your needs are going to be three years from now, but it's exceedingly troubling if you're taking these kids only because the ones you chose three, four, five years ago aren't panning out as NHLers.

I keep expecting Darcy Regier and Kevin Devine to pop up on Hoarders, with family, friends and code enforcers opening doors to each room and finding Dennis Persson and T.J. Brennan packed into a closet; Brayden McNabb, Drew Schiestel, and Nick Crawford huddled in the basement; Vyateslav Buravchikov and Alex Biega tucked away in a cupboard.

That licensed OCD therapist would say something like, "Guys, maybe it's time to throw out this Andrej Sekera and that Mike Weber? It's clear they're not really serving any purpose anymore."

Maybe Regier would submit to the onset of a panic attack when it's pointed out there's a Marc-Andre Gragnani that hasn't even been taken out of the box.

Remember, outside of the shrewd choice of Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers in 2008, Regier's coming dangerously close to having whizzed away a glut of high picks on The Little Defensemen That Couldn't. Word is Persson has taken major steps backward and is already on the prospect bubble, having adjusted to the North American game as well as an open jar of mayonnaise fares on a Florida countertop in mid-August.

And you never hear much of anything about Brennan, which is perhaps just as disquieting as actually hearing news of Persson's regression in AHL Portland. Yes, Brennan was just a kid when the Sabres took him early in the 2006 draft, and word is he's doing OK. But it's four years later now, and I'd bet a few dozen players chosen in that class are playing in the league now, or at least on the cusp thereof. 

I'm not expecting John Vogl to tell us from Sabres prospects camp at NU that either will be solid shots to make the opening-night lineup in October. So, when do these kids start to make their impact felt? Are we going to someday endure the same he-isn't-quite-there-yet song and dance with 2010 choices Mark Pysyk, Jerome Gauthier-Leduc, and Matt McKenzie?

On a side note, can we enact a moratorium on French-Canadian hyphenated names? Between Gauthier-Leduc and Oilers goaltending prospect Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, teams are going to have a difficult time making name patches for these guys. Besides, these double names are pretentious, tiresome hooey in the first place.

Back on point, I figured the Sabres' needs heading into the draft were big, strong, skilled forwards, especially after watching their collection of mighty mites get rag-dolled by Boston skaters in April. Yet the hockey department and its scouts (which I presume to be Devine, a bunch of DVD and VHS players, and maybe G.O.R.D. from 2010: A Hockey Odyssey) fell back into the safe, default setting of "Best Player Available."

Maybe after the disasters we know as Artem Kriukov and Jiri Novotny, and the on- and off-ice troubles of 2009 top pick Zach Kassian, Regier is shying away from taking forwards. Understandable, to a degree.

It'll sting a little less, I guess, if some room is made for these youthful rearguards when the team parts ways with Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman, even though our eyes and ears are flogged with daily articles and reports about how Regier would love to have them back. Our solace is that he'll likely be spared that decision when the league's foolishly big spenders offers each of them outrageous cash to leave Buffalo.

The question, then, becomes, will any of the glut of prospects in the system (Gragnani? Weber? Sekera? Anyone?) be ready to take their place?

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