September 3, 2017, 10:24 AM ET [91 Comments]
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27 yrs. old
6'3" 208 lbs.
2008, 2nd round (55th-overall)
Acquired in a trade with Minnesota June 30, 2017
Career Stats: 373 games | 27 goals | 62 assists | 89 points | -10
Similar to last year, the Buffalo Sabres head into the 2017-18 season in a situation where Rasmus Ristolainen will be anchoring the defense as the team's only top pairing defenseman. It will then be up to the coaching staff and/or player chemistry to find out who will be joining him on Buffalo's top defensive pairing.
As it stands now, Marco Scandella looks as if he'll be in that No. 2 role heading into the season. Others like Jake McCabe or Nathan Beaulieu may make a push with a strong camp, but when the Sabres sent a trade-package to the Minnesota Wild for Scandella, which included taking back Jason Pominville's rather large $5.6 million cap-hit for the next two seasons, one would think that Buffalo GM Jason Botterill has designs on Scandella pairing with Ristolainen.
"It was a priority for us to try to find another guy that can play some heavy minutes," said Botterill of the trade for Scandella (via Jourdan LaBarber of Sabres.com.) "We think [he] did a little bit of that in Minnesota, but he was certainly surrounded by some good defensemen and I think now playing a bigger role here (in Buffalo,) he's ready to take the next step in his career."
Buffalo head coach Phil Housley saw a lot of Scandella when he was an assistant with the Nashville Predators. He told the post-trade gathered media that Scandella was a "terrific player" and a "fierce competitor" and that the 27 yr. old was "a key element" the team added. At 6'3" and 208 lbs. he's got size and he's also considered a shutdown defenseman but he skates very well to and is adept at moving the puck up ice. "The way he can skate," said Housley, "[he] is mobile ... A big part of our team is going to be mobility back there and he brings that.” He can also put up points although he had a down year last season.
Scandella's two-way game was very appealing to Botterill, especially with the way Housley is expected to coach the defensemen. "It'll be interesting to see how much his offensive numbers really increase," he said. "Whether he gets the assists or not, he's going to start our transition game out of our own end and in the neutral zone and then with his size and his compete down low, his reach, we really think he's going to be able to log a lot of minutes on our PK and be able to play against other teams' top two lines."
Last season under new coach Bruce Boudreau Scandella saw his year-over-year numbers drop. He went from 21 points (5+16) in 2015-16 under then coach Mike Yeo to 13 points (4+9) last season and he also saw his ice-time drop from 20:42/game to 18:20/gm. Part of that ice-time reduction had to do with the quality of defensemen on the Wild while another part was his play, which dropped off.
Although he had a rough regular season, Scandella turned it on in the playoffs averaging nearly 23 minutes of ice-time in the five-game series vs. the St. Louis Blues. That number was second only to top defenseman Ryan Suter.
Chad Graff of the Twin Cities Pioneer Press said that Scandella was "eager to turn the page" after the regular season and that he was "thriving" in the post season. Having 34 games of playoff experience perhaps lead Boudreau to lean on him a little more and although he didn't hit the score sheet, he made the most of his opportunity. “I’ve always thought my game works really well in the playoffs,” said Scandella in the Graff piece. “This is the way that I have to play every night, I find it’s been really effective. I just have to be an animal defensively. I have that long stick and a big body and I can skate, so I need to use that to my advantage.”
If Scandella hopes to once again thrive in the post season, he'll need to bring that same package every night during the regular season for Buffalo as Housley may need to lean heavily on him in a top-pairing role.