Michal Neuvirth didn’t see the constant parade of star players leaving the Buffalo Sabres as a major problem. He didn’t believe that hearing the names “Jack Eichel” or “Connor McDavid” at every turn was an issue.
Yes, he hated losing with the NHL-worst Sabres, but Neuvirth, the recently traded at the NHL's Monday trade deadline (or escaped, however you look at it) Buffalo goaltender saw the positive in defeat and the overall long-term gain in his career by playing with the Sabres.
“I was facing a lot of shots and a lot of good scoring chances every game,” the newly acquired Islanders goaltender said. “I think it’s going to help me in the long run.”
That’s actually kind of funny. But it’s really no different than some of the comments former Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers made after his first game with Winnipeg. After that contest, Myers said it was relieving to not be hemmed in his own zone for most of the game.
“For myself I was always trying to be positive no matter what and not get too high or too low and just work hard and I always was preparing for the next game,” Neuvrith said. “I wasn’t looking too forward.”
There’s a strange freeing feeling you get from more veteran former Buffalo players after they’re traded away. They understand what the organization was doing – basically tanking to increase the chance of getting the No.1 or No. 2 pick in the draft – but get that they’re not totally part of those plans. And they’re perfectly OK with that.
It’s like general manager Tim Murray gave them a get out of jail free card. Neuvirth is the third former Sabres player who was recently traded I’ve talked with this year.
And he seemed to have the best outlook of them all. He took the bad and turned it into a positive. He didn’t like the losing, but he enjoyed the experience of playing. This is probably because it was the first time in his career where he knew he was the undisputed No. 1, at least for a few weeks.
“Probably the lowest (moment) was when I didn’t win for a while and had that losing streak for a while. That was really tough,” he said in regards to a 10-game losing streak.
And after Jhonas Enroth was traded to Dallas, even though Neuvirth went a so-so 3-3-2, he said he enjoyed the opportunity to play every day.
“I played every game and a lot of games in a short time. I was happy I could prove I could play a lot of games in a short time,” he said.
As for all the tanking talk, did that bother Neuvirth? After all winning seemed to be going against organizational orders, even if none of Buffalo’s higher ups admit the tank job. Players aren’t simply wired to lose.
“I didn’t really care about that,” Neuvirth said. “I always want to try to win and give my best effort every time I play and try to win a hockey game.”
And in some ways, the goaltender was rewarded with the trade to the Islanders. He’s not going to be New York’s No. 1 goaltender. But he’s on a contender, and a team that’s built to last. The Islanders have already been where the Sabres are, and they’re not in a position to return any time soon.
“You’re playing at this level and you know the standings. The way the season has gone, he knows what we’re trying to achieve here, and come in and have a general feel for that,” New York captain John Tavares said. “We’re competing for the division and home ice in the playoffs. I think you feel that right away and for him, he’s looking forward to it.”
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