It’s safe to say that the biggest splash Sabres GM Jason Botterill made in his first free agency with the team was the first move he made. On June 30, longtime Sabre forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno were traded to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for defenseman Marco Scandella and winger Jason Pominville, a very familiar face for Buffalo. Here are the top five reasons why Jason Pominville’s return to the blue and gold is a very good thing.
.5 Sabres fans know him well.
We’ll start with the most obvious reason. Unlike the signings Buffalo has made in the last few offseasons like Ryan O’Reilly and Kyle Okposo, there is no mystery surrounding Jason Pominville and Sabres fans know exactly what to expect from him. Pominville was one of the team’s best players of the post-2005 Lockout Era and produced one of the most memorable moments in franchise history when he scored shorthanded in overtime to knock off Ottawa in 2006. His strong two-way play and leadership earned him two tenures as the team’s captain. Though he’s older, Buffalo knows what it’s getting with his return.
.4 Higher output
It might seem as if Buffalo traded away much of its scoring by letting Ennis, 27, and Foligno, 25, go, but that actually is not the case. The duo combined for just 36 points last season. Despite being far older than both, Pominville, 34, recorded 47 points in 2016-17 while helping the Wild to the postseason. It’s unclear how many seasons Pommer has left in the tank, but he is still good for 40-45 points a season, far more than you’ll get from either Enzo or Moose.
.3 His vision and passing will fit right in.
During his first run with Buffalo, Pominville’s greatest asset was his instincts. He passes the puck very well and rarely makes bone-headed plays. On a Sabres squad that is stacked with players like ROR, Okposo and Sam Reinhart, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane, all players that can be starters and finishers, the former team captain will fit like a glove. It remains to be seen where new head coach Phil Housley places his newest forward, but if he decides to keep Eichel, Kane and Reinhart together, Pominville on the second line with Okposo and ROR isn’t far-fetched.
.2 He’s a very good penalty killer.
Just 24 at the time, Pominville’s jaw-dropping shorty against the Senators in the 2006 ECSF was a showcase of his abilities on the penalty kill. He picked off the forward playing defense in Daniel Alfredsson and attacked the weakness. The rest of course is history. One of Dan Bylsma’s biggest issues with Buffalo was exhausting players by using them on both the power play and penalty kill. With the team also adding penalty kill specialist Benoit Pouliot, the Sabres finally have depth on the man-down unit and will yield much better results when someone is in the box.
.1 He possesses both heart and character.
Every Sabres fan knows that Jason Pominville gives you 100% every time, it’s part of what made him so popular with the team. The Repentigny, Quebec native is a veteran of over 900 NHL games and knows what it takes to be successful. You can never have enough leadership and character on a team of any sort, and adding Pominville gives the team another experienced presence that will set the example for the younger players of the future like Justin Bailey, Nicolas Baptiste, Alexander Nylander and Brendan Guhle. I’m not saying he will have a third tour as Sabres captain, especially with rumors swirling that Ryan O’Reilly will be given the honor this season. But Pominville is a tremendous presence, and if nothing else, he brings more character to his new/old team.
It will be interesting to see what number Pominville will choose to wear. His classic #29 is now worn by Jake McCabe and it seems unlikely that Buffalo will ask him to relinquish it. 19 perhaps?
What are your thoughts on Pominville’s return? What’s the best/worst part of it? Be sure to let me know.