The D absolutely was the priority & due to injury it's been a tire fire. Bogosian, who when healthy is the 3rd best D-man, has yet to take a shift. Scandella, who is tbe 2nd best (arguably 1st), started the year on the 3rd pair recovering from the hip. And Ristolainen, who's never had injury issues, has now missed 10 games w/ no immediate return in sight.
TM took us down the road of big time acquisitions and this is how we got in this mess in the first place. The new GM walked into a terrible situation and has only begun re-tooling the roster. Because of TM’s bad acquisitions and the large contracts that came with them, Jbot had limited cap space to maneuver with. Kane, Moulson, Ko, ROR, Risto, Gorges, and Ennis were all here when he was hired and they represented about 38 mill of our cap, leaving about 37 mill to pay another 16 players. (Or about $2 mill per player) At that number all we could afford, especially after retaining Lehner and the Ennis trade were depth players.
He did great getting rid of Ennis’ deal and turning him into Scandella and Pommers, but that move also eat into our cap. Retaining Lehner, who like it or not, earned a new deal last season with his good play, but Jbot smartly kept to a one year deal, also eat into our cap. In addition, at least on paper, our top six forwards looked decent to good last year. ROR, Jack, KO, Sam and Kane all had decent to very good seasons. So given all that, where did you want Jbot to retool?
The defense was his first priority.
1) He acquired Scandella, who was only traded because they had young cheaper player in Brodin read to take on Scandella’s role. This is what happens in a cap world. That doesn’t mean Scandella isn’t a top four D.
2) We all like Antipin, but he was not acquired to be a top pairing guy. He was also a TM recruit, who Jbot agrred to keep.
3) Baloo has been a disappointment, but a 3rd rd pick for a former 1st rd pick who at only 24 had a 20+ season from the blueline was a risk worth taking. He also wasn’t acquired to play top line minutes.
Remember he already had McCabe, Risto and Bogo (plus Gorges and Falk also under contract) here when he got here. All three under contract and proven NHL players who should have worked under Houlsey’s system. However with Bogo yet to play, Risto out also and McCabe logging bigger minutes then intended, it’s no wonder the D and therefore the team is in disarray.
I would have loved to see him acquire a another top D, but what asset did we have to acquire said player without future destroying our pipeline? Jbot is no fool. He knows we don’t have enough depth, but the only way to develop that depth longterm is to draft and develop it in the AHL. This is the course he has taken. It’s why Ullmark and Guhle are still in Rochester. It’s why Asplund, Pu and Mittelstadt will play in Rochester next season.
Rome wasn’t built in a day. If Jbot wants to fix this properly he is going to take 3 years, slowly clear out TM’s failed acquisitions and let the kids develop correctly. Will it work? I’m not sure, but this is the only course left to us. Our pipeline is still missing enough D and our current AHL forward prospects don’t look like NHL players with the exception of Smith. I reserve judgement on Nylander until he plays 10-15 games.
Housley did not trust Antipin early, but he's now gaining trust playing on the 2nd pairing and playing at the end when a goal (as is always necessary w/ this team) is necessary at the end.
If they ever get healthy & can put Risto-Marco; McCabe-Bogo, & Antipin-Falk out, they finally have an NHL-caliber D-corp. Not expecting that until after Christmas at the earliest. Get at least 5 of those guys out there & this team will play at a playoff qualifying pace. Sadly, they will already have been 10-15 points back of a playoff pace by then.
But they NEED to have Bogosian gone & replaced next season or they'll be in the same situation w/ the D. Ideally Antipin would be ready for 2nd pairing & Guhle 3rd, but that partner for McCabe for next season will likely have to be brought into the system. Still hating that they didn't take either Chychrun or Sergachev.