Sabres send Larsson to Rochester, recall Schaller & Varone
Sunday was an off day for the Buffalo Sabres, but it didn’t come without some news.
Early Sunday evening, the team announced they have recalled forwards Tim Schaller and Phil Varone from the AHL’s Rochester Americans, while sending back center Johan Larsson.
Schaller has been having a phenomenal year, becoming a key player for the Amerks and earning multiple looks with the Sabres. On a team with more notable offensive prospects, he’s leading Rochester in goals (10) and notched his first NHL goal December 21st against Boston on his second of now three recalls.
Varone, on the other hand, gets his first recall of the season. Leading the Americans in scoring with 29 points in 35 games, the former Erie Otter collected a goal and an assist in a nine-game stint with the Sabres back in January and February 2014.
Both players are deserving of their respective recalls. Both players have shown capabilities beyond the AHL level. But the more interesting part of this roster shuffle is in regards to Johan Larsson, who’s drawn the ire of media, fans and, apparently, coaches due to his questionable play.
Larsson, 22, has one goal and one assist in 12 NHL games over two recalls this season. Apparently, that doesn’t seem to be enough output for a player whose game isn’t the type that exhibits buzzwords such as “grit” or “compete.”
In his most recent eight game stint with the Sabres, he added a goal and an assist with an even plus-minus rating as the team was outscored 36-14 and went 1-6-1. In a terrible stretch, Larsson was on the ice for as many goals for as goals against: two.
A projected consistent two-way top-9 forward also spent most of this time being paired with fourth line grinders, with Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta being his linemates for approximately a third of his total ice time in the NHL this season.
So, really, it seems to be an indictment of Larsson for not generating tangible offense (goals and assists) with McCormick (30 games, 0 goals, 3 assists) and Kaleta (18 games, 0 goals, 2 assists) without delving deeper into the underlying reasons behind it.
Offensively, the advanced numbers seem to show that Larsson did have some impact. In his eight game recall, he posted a positive Corsi Rel number (meaning his Corsi For % was better than average for the team) in seven of eight games. The Sabres generated better pressure with him on the ice, but oddly that didn’t translate into goals (wonder if getting stuck on a line with offensively ineffective players might explain that), and without goals, the Joe Six-Packs and Mike Harringtons of the world won’t stand for it.
Johan Larsson’s even strength Corsi Rel % for the season also happens to be the second best among forwards, behind only Brian Gionta. Simply put, for those who don’t follow, the team’s better offensively with Larsson on the ice.
It seems odd and unfortunate that Larsson is being treated as if he’s not contributing, when in reality, he’s just not the type of player who’s going to make cat piss into lemonade. As a prospect, he’s still developing into the player he can be and this demotion isn’t reflective of his future. It is a bit disturbing if it’s an honest reflection of the coaching staff’s ability to assess a player’s performance.
Rochester is off until Wednesday, when they begin a stretch of three games in four nights. Larsson will get a chance to play important minutes and continue his development.
But, man, when is this guy going to get some appreciation?