Matthews: Why Did Sabres Take So Many Defensemen?


The Buffalo Sabres were assured of having a plus NHL entry draft last Thursday night when they made can’t-miss defenseman Rasmus Dahlin the No. 1 overall pick.

But Buffalo’s overall draft was a head-scratcher.

Five of Buffalo’s six picks were defensemen. Four are from Sweden and one is from Finland. Maybe Botterill will have better luck with Scandinavian blueliners than GMs of old had drafting Russian forwards, several of whom never reported.

General manager Jason Botterill’s explanation: “You can never have too many defensemen.”

OK. We get it. Most of Buffalo’s defensemen last season were slow and offensively-challenged. Some of them belonged in the American Hockey League.

But the Sabres are hurting for productive wingers, too, and need at least two new veteran goalies – one for Buffalo, to split time with Linus Ullmark, who probably isn’t ready to play 50-plus games in the NHL this season, and one for Rochester.

Dahlin is the only 2018 draft pick expected to play in Buffalo immediately – or even this season. The rest aren’t ready to help even Rochester.

Botterill obviously still has lots of work to do this offseason.


Entering Monday’s start of the final 16 matches in the Group Stage, through 32 games (out of 64) there have been 85 goals (2.66 per game), 17 one-goal games, 17 shutouts, 5 draws and 0 nil-nil games.

Eight teams have been eliminated: Costa Rica, Egypt, Morocco, Panama, Peru, Poland, Saudi Arabia and Tunisia...Six teams have clichéd spot in the knockout round: Belgium, Croatia, England, France, host Russia and Uruguay.


Major League Baseball’s top three teams probably reside in the American League – in order of preference, the Houston Astros (offense not quite as good, starting pitching much the best), Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (third until they trade for another solid starting pitcher and find a first baseman).

But – for the first time in a long time – the National League appears to be the stronger league.

The AL has won the interleague series versus the NL for each of the past 14 years. But – entering Sunday – the NL had a 65-56  advantage this season.

The NL might not have a team as strong as the Astros, Red Sox or Yankees, but the NL has more balance, with fewer really bad teams.

Predictions: The three division leaders in the AL will remain on top all season (Yankees or Red Sox, Cleveland and Houston), and the three current division leaders in the NL will be overtaken down the stretch: Atlanta by Washington in the East, Milwaukee by the Cubs in the Central and Arizona by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the West.


The Buffalo Sabres last week decided not to retain goaltender Robin Lehner. He’s now an unrestricted free agent.

Lehner’s stay in Buffalo reminds me of former Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s stay.

--Both played three seasons for Buffalo.

--Both joined lousy Buffalo teams and didn’t have strong supporting casts.

--Both were frequent targets for criticism by many fans and media critics.

--Both were – in my opinion – scapegoats for the overall deficiencies of their teams.

--Both figure to be more successful and more appreciated with their new teams: Taylor with the Cleveland Browns (where he’ll have much better receivers than he had last season, when he helped the Bills end their 17-year playoff drought) and Lehner with ??? (where he’ll almost certainly have a much better group of defensemen in front of him than he had last season in Buffalo).


Former Red Wing Jose Berrios of the Minnesota Twins is making a strong bid for the All-Star Game. He had a career-high 12 strikeouts in 7 innings in Sunday’s 2-0 win over Texas and Bartolo Colon. He’s 3-0 in June and 8-5 with a 3.15 ERA overall. In 103 innings he has allowed only 73 hits and has 109 strikeouts.

A rare recent Chris Davis sighting Sunday. Baltimore’s struggling first baseman was 0-for-4 with only 1 strikeouts in a 7-3 loss at Atlanta. He’s batting .151 with 90 strikeouts in 219 official at-bats.

New York Yankees pitchers worked 8 hitless innings Sunday before Chason Shreve on his very first pitch allowed a home run to rookie Jake Bauers in a 12-inning, 7-6 loss to the host Tampa Bay Rays. The Yankees have lost three straight games for the first time this season.

Houston (15-2 in the last 17 games) crushed Kansas City (3-18 in June) in an 11-3 win Sunday.

Justin Verlander starts Monday for Detroit against Toronto. He leads the American League in ERA, WHIP and opposing batting average.

Journeyman right-hander Edwin Jackson will start Monday night for Oakland at Detroit. The A’s are his 13th different MLB team, tying Octavio Dotel’s MLB record.

Oakland has hit at least one home run in a 25 consecutive road games, tying the 1996 Baltimore Orioles for the MLB record.

The Los Angeles Dodgers tied the single-game MLB record with 7 solo home runs Sunday against the New York Mets.

Seattle is 1-6 in the last 7 games including 1-5 on the current East Coast trip.

Cleveland has won seven consecutive games by a combined 54-9.

Detroit is 0-9 in the state of Ohio this season.

Cincinnati has won 7 straight games, including a weekend 4-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs.


They’re among the 16 athletes featured in ESPN The Magazine’s annual Body10 Issue.

The others: Sue Bird (WNBA)/Megan Rapone (soccer), Tori Bowie (sprinter), Jessie Diggins Skier), Lauren Chamberlain (softball), Crystal Dunn (soccer), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (soccer), Dallas Keuchel (baseball), Adam Rippon (figure skater), Breanna Stewart (WNBA), Karl-Anthony Towns (NBA), Jerry Rice (football) and Yasiel Puig (baseball)...Norman golf, Flair pro wrestling and Barkley football.


ESPN’s Jonathan Givony’s (sort of “way too early”) 2019 NBA Mock Draft has Duke freshman R.J. Barrett No. 1 to Atlanta and North Carolina freshman Nassir Little No. 2 to Boston (via Sacramento). Seven of his top eight projected picks are freshmen...Syracuse U. stars Tyus Battle No. 27 to Boston and Oshae Brissett No. 33 to Orlando.

The introductory media conference for Rasmus Dahlin in Buffalo Moday morning revealed that the No. 12 overall pick in the 2018 NHL draft will wear No. 26 for the Buffalo Sabres. It was his number in the Swedish League. The last Sabre to wear the number was Matt Moulson and the best probably was Thomas Vanek.

LeBron James has until Friday to pick up his $35.6 million player option with the Cleveland Cavaliers. I believe joining the Boston Celtics – with or without Kyrie Irving, but preferably with Irving -- would be his best chance to win the 2019 NBA Championship. I can’t see him winning it all with the Houston Rockets. LeBron, James Harden and maybe Chris Paul would need two basketballs to stay happy.

The Dallas (formerly Rochester) Rattlers beat the host Atlanta Blaze 16-14 Saturday night to boost their record to a Major League Lacrosse-best 8-2. They’ve won five straight games, a rarity in the well-balanced league.

The North Carolina Courage (formerly the WNY Flash) crushed the host Seattle Reign 4-1 Saturday to boost their record to 10-1-3, best in the National Womens’ Soccer League.


Monday, June 25

Matt Schaub (37)...Aramis Ramirez (40)...Carlos Delgado (46)...Joan Smith (51)...Dikembe Mutombo (52)...Dell Curry (54)...Doug Gilmour (55)...Mike Stanley (55)...Glenn Hagen (63)...Ken Hodge (74)...Willis Reed (76). Phyllis George (69) is invited to the birthday party. George Michael was born on this date 55 years ago and died in 2019 at age 53. Anthony Bourdain weas born on this date 62 years ago and died this year at age 61.

Tuesday, June 26

Rudy Colbert (26)...Iman Shumpert (28)...Devon Williams (34)...Raymond Felton (34)...Michael Vick (38)...Chad Pennington (42)...Derek Jeter (44)...Ed Jovanoski (42)...Jason Kendall (44)...Shannon Sharpe (50)...Jerome Kelsey (56)...Greg LeMond (57). Ariana Grande (25) is invited to the birthday party.


June 25

92 years ago (1926), Bobby Jones won the 61st British Open with a 291 at Royal Latham...73 years ago (1935), Joe Louis defeated Primo Carnera at Yankee Stadium...70 years ago (1948), Joe Louis KOd Jersey Joe Wolcott in 11 for the world heavyweight title...46 years ago (1972), Bernice Gura became the first female umpire in professional baseball...21 years ago (1997), the NHL approved franchises in Atlanta, Columbus, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Nashville.

June 26

59 years ago (1959), Ingemar Johansson TKOd Floyd Patterson in 3 for the world heavyweight title...58 years ago (1970), Frank Robinson hit two grand slam home runs as the Orioles beat the Senators 12-2...35 years ago (1983), Ayako Okamoto won the LPGA Rochester International...3 years ago (2015), the Edmonton Oilers made Connor McDavid the No. 1 overall pick in the NHL draft.


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