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Will Chris & Craig Go From Unbearable Back To Unflappable?

09/17/10
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What started out as a no-frills, no-nonsense defensive pairing that made you feel safe and secure when they were on the ice in 2008/2009, the Chris Butler-Craig Rivet pairing was tripe in 2009/2010. An injured, aging physical defenseman coupled with a sophomore blueliner afflicted with the eponymous slump made for bad times as Sabres fans cringed most times they were on ice. Will the third year player and rejuvenated captain make magic again?

Recovered From Surgery Already?
Craig Rivet finally had corrective surgery for the double torn labrum he incurred in 2008 in May and was initially expected to be out until up to November. Then in June (or was it July), Darcy Regier made a comment that he would be ready to start the season. For some reason, it seemed to get brushed aside during free agency. Then, earlier this week, Lindy Ruff confirmed that the captain would be ready to begin camp with the team – on Saturday. Is Rivet a bionic man or is he rushing it back?

I highly doubt he’s rushing back. He’s an aging defenseman whose physical style has taken a toll on his body and I would have to think that he knows hurrying back into action is only going to further limit how much longer he can continue to play in the NHL. So, I’m highly pleased to have a healthy, rejuvenated, and ill-tempered Craig Rivet ready to play hockey this season.

Was It A Sophomore Slump For Butler?
I’d have to say yes. Look at wunderkind goaltender Steve Mason. One season, he’s winning the Calder. Next, he’s on the outside of the playoffs looking in with a set of highly unimpressive stats. There’s a reason the phenomenon has a specific, alliterative nickname – because it happens rather frequently. I have no reason to believe that Chris Butler is actually a bad NHL defenseman and I think he’ll have a great bounce-back year.

Do Butler & Rivet Remain A Pair?
Simply put, no. I think at this stage neither player is a terribly-good skater, and that hampers the Sabres’ patented four man rush. Rivet would benefit from having a partner like Jordan Leopold to rush the puck while Craig stays back and guards the zone. Once offensive presence is established, he’d be able to join the play and unleash a slapper from the point.

So there you have it, folks. My top two pairs are Morrisonn-Myers and Leopold-Rivet. Where does Butler belong? Well, you’ll have to wait to find out…

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