Player Profile: Chris Butler1
Height: 6′ 1″
Hometown: St. Louis, MO
Birth date: 10/27/86
Drafted: By the Buffalo Sabres, 2005 NHL entry draft, 4th round
Chris Butler is still a bit of a riddle wrapped in an enigma wrapped in a Super Mighty Burrito for the Sabres. With an up and down year in 2009-2010, many expected him to take a big step forward in 2010-2011. He didn’t at first and was benched for a large stretch from December through early February.
Butler seemingly has all the tools but sometimes lacks the mental fortitude and quick decision making to be a great D-man in the NHL. But Butler worked on his flaws during the benching and came out ready to play. He improved greatly, enough so to eventually be paired on the top line with Tyler Myers, getting lots of time on the penalty kill unit as well.
His play against Philly in the first round of the playoffs requires some thought. He was good in the 1-0 wins, but also looked bad in the losses. He took some dumb penalties and made some boneheaded moves. Of course, so did the rest of the defense, so perhaps it’s more of an overall team letdown. Plus, lest we forget, Philly’s forwards are pretty good.
Offensively, Butler didn’t score until April 3rd. Those waiting for RJ’s call of, “the Butler did it” would be denied, as Jeanneret declined to take the obvious call. Butler did notch one more goal in a meaningless finale against Columbus and only finished with 7 assists.
Despite the minimal scoring, Butler says he’s comfortable on the power play and does pretty well offensively. He has a decent shot and moves the puck well. Perhaps it more a case of him focusing almost to the exclusion of everything else on defense, with Ruff drilling it into his head over and over.
In first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs against Philly, we see the good and bad of Butler. Here, in game 1, Briere skates right around him, getting a nice chance on goal. In game 3, Hartnell robs Butler, leading directly to a goal. On the flipside, we see Butler do pretty well on the PK, knocking a guy down and blocking a shot in game 1:
He’s still very young at 25, but Sabres fans would like to see more improvement. He’s only two seasons in, however so perhaps we should cut him some slack. He ended up as a plus 8 while working on the top line against the other teams best. A learning curve and some mistakes are bound to happen, and we do seem to forgive Myers for his mistakes.
He’s a hard worker who, if he polishes his game a bit and adds a little more muscle, could be a true #1 paired with Myers. Of course, he could stagnate and be an average guy on a 2nd or 3rd line. Butler is an RFA with an $850,000 salary. The most likely result in the offseason is that he gets a 10% pay raise with the Sabres.