Senseless For Sabres To Keep Sam Reinhart
While the New York Islanders try to figure out where Griffin Reinhart fits in to their line up, younger brother Sam has also been getting his first taste of NHL action with the struggling Buffalo Sabres.
0-3-0 following last night’s embarrassing performance against Anaheim, Buffalo were always expected to finish near the bottom this year; as one eye seems firmly fixed on the progress of Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel.
With a comprehensive rebuild under way, one which began last season, the Sabres aren’t in any position to turn their fortunes around yet – meaning it could not only be a rough couple of years for their fans, but it’s also somewhat pointless keeping Reinhart around.
Selected 2nd overall at this summer draft, Reinhart scored 36 goals and 105 points for the WHL Kootenay Ice last season – confirming his status as one of the games top prospects.
Along with blue liner Nikita Zadorov and forward Zemgus Girgensons, the 18-year old is, understandably, seen as a key part of the Sabres future. This is a team selling hope right now, but attempts to excite fans with the teams potential cannot come at the expense of their prospects development.
And that’s the danger Buffalo has if they push Reinhart in to the line up too early.
The young centre made some nice plays against Columbus in the Sabres season opener, making at least one neat move to set up Cody Hodgson; but his inexperience was fully on display against a strong Ducks team.
That isn’t necessarily a criticism of Reinhart. He’s a young player going straight from the draft to a bad NHL team. The learning curve for rookies is steep at the best of times – but in Buffalo, with little top level support, it’s akin to trying to conquer Everest on your own.
Averaging less than 13 minutes of ice time thus far, Reinhart has a 28% success rate in the face-off circle and just 2 shots on net. Whilst it’s nice for him to get his feet wet at NHL level, it’s not like he is dominating proceedings or getting big minutes.
So why keep him around?
Immersing a young player in a losing environment, and a situation in which he is going to struggle, is a recipe for disaster. It affects confidence and begins to plant the wrong seeds when it comes to winning in the future – just look at Edmonton, whose bevy of top prospects have only ever known defeat and are now struggling to haul the club back in to play-off contention.
And maybe that’s the biggest concern of all – while you may be able to shelter him somewhat with controlled minutes and careful line matching, soaking a player in a losing environment doesn’t put him on any sort of path to success in the future.
From a ‘financial’ stand point, it makes little sense to burn a year of Reinhart’s entry level deal on a losing season either. Buffalo just moves him closer to free agency and an opportunity to leave if the organisation is still a tyre fire on the ice.
The Sabres still have a handful of games to let Reinhart soak the experience up before making their final decision; but if he’s not back with Kootenay by the end of October, some serious questions need to be raised abut the Sabres line of thinking when it comes to their future stars.