When the Buffalo Sabres traded away Derek Roy, they created a massive hole in their lineup. As maligned as he was in Buffalo, Roy was still the closest thing the Sabres had to a first-line centre. He was second in ice time among Buffalo forwards behind Jason Pominville and played in all situations. The issue was that he didn’t perform like a first-line centre during the 2011-12 season, finishing with the lowest point-per-game rate of his career since his rookie season.
With just 44 points to go along with previous disappointments, Roy didn’t leave many missing him in Buffalo. In some ways, he was seen as a symbol of the soft Sabres that did little in response to Milan Lucic running over Ryan Miller. That he was traded for Steve Ott, a rough-and-tumble forward known more for his physical play than his offensive prowess, shows the attempt at a culture shift for the Sabres.
While ostensibly a winger, Ott was the Stars’ best faceoff man, taking over 1000 draws in 2011-12. Where the Sabres failed with Ville Leino, they’ll be trying again with Ott. What he isn’t, however, is a first line centre.
The Sabres seem to be well-aware of this issue, turning to youth to fill the void. The Sabres drafted two talented centres in the first round of the 2012 draft in Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons, acquired Cody Hodgson from the Vancouver Canucks, and will look to Tyler Ennis to play a larger role. The first-line spot appears to be Hodgson’s to lose – The Hockey News, NHL.com, and various fan blogs all have Hodgson pencilled in already – but Ennis still has a shot, as does Grigorenko, who might make the team as an 18-year-old.
There is one young centre, however, who seems to have been forgotten: Luke Adam.