The main issue for the Sabres over the second half of the season − aside from whether they should tank again − is finding out if Robin Lehner is their franchise goaltender.
Lehner has been out since injuring his ankle in the season opener, putting off any early judgments on whether General Manager Tim Murray was wise to trade the 21st overall pick of last year’s NHL Draft to Ottawa for the 24-year-old Swede.
Murray’s reputation as a judge of talent is at stake here. He has made some good moves as GM and orchestrated a masterful tank for Jack Eichel. But he hasn’t shown any surpassing hockey genius. In his zeal to lose last year, he dumped goalies Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth, who leads the league in save percentage for Philly.
Instead, he put his faith in Lehner, a quirky, 6-4 goalie who underachieved in his last two seasons with the Senators. Lehner is finally back on the ice and should begin playing soon. The Sabres need to make him the No. 1 guy and ride him. If they’re going to become a real playoff contender, they need a true No. 1 goalie. It’s time to start finding out.