Monday, September 6, 2021

Sabres Preview: Travis Turnbull Autograph Card

(team and product links go to sponsored Amazon products, player links go to related pages on my blog, news links go to source pages)

This will likely be the preface to all of this year's Season Preview posts: I liked doing last year's format, so I'll be doing it the same way this seaosn, partly because of that but also because as a father of a toddler and a baby, I just do not have enough time to write two separate posts per day on each blog. I'll copy these on each one instead. Like last year, the entire scope of the analysis will take place here and the player will have some sort of direct connection to what's written.

Caveats: at this point, despite training camp being set to start in less than two weeks, several players haven't found a team yet, most RFAs haven't signed with their respective teams yet, and a few teams are currently above the salary cap, which means there is much maneuvering left to do.

Key exits: Sam Reinhart (C), Linus Ullmark (G), Rasmus Ristolainen (D), Jake McCabe (D), Will Borgen (D), Matt Irwin (D), Tobias Reider (RW), Riley Sheahan (C), Taylor Hall (F, at last year's deadline)

Key Arrivals: Aaron Dell (G), Craig Anderson (G), Devon Levi (G), Robert Hagg (D), Mark Pysyk (D), John Hayden (C), Vinnie Hinostroza (RW), Will Butcher (D)

Top prospects: Owen Power (D), Jack Quinn (RW), Arttu Ruotsalainen (C), John-Jason Peterka (LW), Isak Rosen (F), Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen (G)

The Buffalo Sabres are a complete trainwreck, and have been for the better part of the last two decades. They have not made the playoffs since the 2010-11 season and haven't won a round since 2005-06. Even before then, they were acting as if they were in the middle of a pandemic, making drastic cuts to their drafting budget, letting go three-quarters of their staff and having the ones that remain work mostly from video footage instead of actually traveling to see the young players perform live. They failed to extend captain (Daniel Brière) after captain (Chris Drury) after captain (Jason Pominville) after captain (Thomas Vanek), they wasted elite goaltending (Dominik Hasek, Ryan Miller), and even getting rid of a locker room cancer with a habit of drunkenly crashing his cars into coffee shops such as Ryan O'Reilly did nothing for them but allowed ROR to win a Stanley Cup with the St. Louis Blues.

They are on their fourth GM (Kevyn Adams, following in the footsteps of Jason Botterill, Tim Murray and Darcy Regier), who themselves have overseen head coaches Lindy Ruff, Ron Rolston, Ted Nolan, Dan Bylsma, Phil Housley, Ralph Krueger, and now Don Granato; job security or stability do not have a home here.

What makes their odds look good:
Only a die-hard fan or gambler in need of a long-shot win would put their money on Buffalo. They'll perhaps be better than last year in team play, but the talent level just isn't there apart from a few pieces - and Granato as a coach is not Barry Trotz, so this isn't the next New York Islanders, either.

Question marks: When does disgruntled captain Jack Eichel get traded, and what will the return be? Is Aaron Dell really going to be their starting goalie, or will Devan Dubnyk agree to sign with the one team left that still has an opening for top spot in net?

There are building blocks here: Casey Mittelstadt is looking like a centre who can play on one of the top two lines, Victor Olofsson can score on the powerplay and would ideally be slotted in the middle-six on a good team but will see top-line ice time here, and Dylan Cozens shows promise up front as well, with Jack Quinn and J.J. Peterka possibly coming in in a few years, but re-signing Jeff Skinner was always going to be dead money, and Anders Bjork, Tage Thompson and Cody Eakin only seem to be placeholders at this point, either to play out their contracts while the team tanks or (particularly in Eakin's case) until a trade deadline deal to a contender makes enough sense. There are more defensive sure bets per capita, with Rasmus Dahlin seeming like he's regained form under Granato, Owen Power graduating from College eventually and Robert Hagg as a rescue project from the Philadelphia Flyers. I can't say I'm as optimistic about former New Jersey Devils prospect Will Butcher, though. But you don't lose your two best centres, you legitimate #1 goalie and your two most consistent defensemen without replacing any of them and purport to leave the bottom of the standings.

8th in the Atlantic Division.

Which brings me to Travis Turnbull, whose father Perry was a useful NHL journeyman who finished his career playing in Italy and Germany. Undrafted, the Sabres signed Travis as a free agent following a four-year career with the Michigan Wolverines in the NCAA; after four seasons in the Sabres' system, consistently improving from one season to the next, he was allowed to suit up in three games with the parent club in 2012-13, scoring a goal. Unfortunately, the 2012-13 lockout happened, and he set his sights for Germany, putting up 46 points and 88 penalty minutes for Düsseldorfer EG, so he may have preferred being a star player overseas than a grinder in North America. His point production regressed starting in 2016-17, but what he brought to the game was still appreciated nonetheless. He was captain of the Schwenninger Wild Wings last season (11 points in 32 games), and I suspect he will be this year as well. This is leadership the Sabres could have brought back at just about any moment in the last decade, but instead chose ROR to lead the room, then handed the reigns to his heir apparent without ever earning it or showing him what he should keep from O'Reilly's teachings and what to throw away. Since Ruff's firing, the Sabres have seemigly always hired the wrong leader at every crucial position, strating with management down to the coaching staff all the way down to the players on the ice. They will need to admit it to their fans before embarking on another rebuilding phase.

Here is Turnbull wearing the team's retro white (away) uniform, on card #SI-TR from Panini's 2013-14 Select collection and Select Signatures sub-set:
It features a blue-sharpied on-sticker autograph.

No comments:

Post a Comment