Tyler Myers’ season started badly, got worse, got a little better and then finally ended with a thud. Myers made more than $11 million this season and as bang for Terry Pegula’s bucks go, the Buffalo Sabres owner probably wouldn’t mind a refund from his big defenseman.
Myers had three goals, five assists and a minus-8 rating in 39 games. His season ended when he suffered a hairline fracture of his left leg blocking a slap shot from Montreal’s P.K. Subban on April 11.
“It was a pretty tough year obviously,” Myers said Saturday in First Niagara Center. “There’s things we have to address if we want to start being successful and it needs to start now. It’s not fun packing your stuff up this early.
“As a team, we need to battle a lot harder. We were really a team that wasn’t that hard to play against. Until we become one, we’re not going to turn it around.”
Myers had 11 goals, 37 assists and a plus-13 rating in 2009-10, when he won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s best rookie. He hasn’t come close to duplicating those numbers and had his worst season yet this year, the first of his seven-year, $38.5 million contract. Will he ever approach his level of play as a rookie?
“It’s only natural to hear things like that the way things have gone, especially this year,” he said. “I’ll be the first to admit I definitely need to turn things around, get back on that path to improving and working on the things that have made me successful. It’s just a matter of working that much harder this offseason.”
Myers played several shifts after blocking the Subban shot and was stunned to hear the diagnosis. He’s moving well in a walking cast.
“It didn’t feel very good to hear that but at the same time it could have been a blessing in disguise,” he said. “It got me to work with our strength guys here for a few weeks. Just had a lot of talks about what was expected, what was needed. It’s just more preparation going into the offseason.”
Conditioning and keeping his weight have been regular issues for Myers, who said he will shuttle between Buffalo and British Columbia this summer in an effort to be in better shape for training camp in September.
“I don’t want to lose any quickness. Skating is a big part of my game and I don’t want gaining weight to affect that,” he said. “It’s just a matter that I think diet is going to be a really big thing for me.”
The Sabres finished last in the Northeast Division for the first time since 2004. After Philadelphia’s 2-1 win at Ottawa Saturday, Buffalo dropped to 12th in the Eastern Conference and 23rd overall in the NHL.
The Sabres thus line up to pick eighth in the first round of the NHL draft on June 30. The lottery for the No. 1 spot for all non-playoff teams is Monday night and Buffalo could drop to ninth if a team below it beats high odds to get to the top pick.
Buffalo also owns Minnesota’s first-round pick from the Jason Pominville trade and that selection will be finalized after the playoffs.
Christian Ehrhoff (Germany) and Thomas Vanek (Austria) have committed to play for their homelands in the World Championships from May 3 to 19 in Sweden and Finland. Jhonas Enroth (Sweden) is expecting to hear from his national federation as well. Ryan Miller said he would not play for Team USA.
With Friday’s shootout win, Ryan Miller improved to 43-27 in his career in the shootout, passing Martin Brodeur for second-most shootout wins by a goaltender (Henrik Lundqvist has 45).
Vanek has been successful on 19 of 53 attempts in his career, passing Ales Kotalik for most shootout goals in franchise history. His five game-deciding goals tie Jason Pominville and Derek Roy for second-most behind Kotalik’s seven.