Congratulations to the Anaheim Ducks. An outstanding organization and a tremendous hockey team. They deserved everything they got.
And now our lives fall back to normalcy. No more puck. At least not on the ice.
It's a terribly sad time of year. At least we have the NBA Finals starting tomorrow, right? Major League Baseball is in full swing. And then football soon, yes? Eh, no. None is quite like the NHL. None could ever be the same.
But -- at least we can experience the thrill of the NHL offseason. Certainly not the same rush you get from the game itself (especially attending a live game), but it's fun in its own right.
Where will everyone go? FAs, UFAs, RFAs, contract extensions, buy-outs, the cap..what's all this business lingo all about? Yeah, it's the other side of the sport. The evil side, in a lot of cases. But it's also the part that makes it such a fun season. The speculation involved, the rumours (why so many people hike to sites like THIS, and Eklund does a great job with it BTW), the uncertainty, and on and on.
So the Anaheim Ducks are Stanley Cup Champions...what to make of this? First of all, it should come as no surprise to anyone. All year long, many were saying it could very well be the West's year. And Anaheim was that good. We just never knew for sure because Anaheim never played Buffalo (the best team in the East) during the regular season due to the messed up schedule - for that matter they didn't play Ottawa of course. So everyone was intrigued about how a team like Buffalo, or Ottawa, might match up with them. Well, now we know how.
Anaheim, the way they are structured, are far superior to the teams in the East. Especially in a Best-of-7 series. They just wear you down. Ottawa could not match up, and Buffalo surely would not have matched up favourably either. Even with their home ice, I honestly believe it would have been a long series for Sabres fans (and possibly more devastating than losing the way we did to Ottawa).
And let me be clear: Anaheim didn't just win. They won decisively.
What does it mean for, say, the Sabres?
Buffalo will need to make more adjustments than we originally thought. They will need to redesign the makeup of their team quite a bit. It's even MORE likely now, since Anaheim won (and the way they won), that either Briere or Drury is gone - maybe both, but I doubt it. A closer series, or an Ottawa cup, and I bet the Sabres stay much more in tact. But now I think changes will be made, the wallet needs to be loosened, and the build of the team will turn to become more gritty, a bit more defensive-minded, and with a hard work first mentality, much like the team was built in 1999 when they went to the Cup.
Final thought looking ahead to next season at this very early stage. Sabres will not be a Presidents Trophy team next year. They will not have the most goals in the league. They will not be #1 in the East. Heck, I don't think they'll crack the top 4 in the east. I see them hovering around the 5 or 6 range, sneaking in, taking teams by surprise....the Buffalo Sabres of old. The hard-working Sabres. The Sabres that fight for every inch of that ice instead of those that are more worried about how fancy that next pass will look. And let me tell you, I'd rather have those old Sabres anyway. So I'm excited about the future and the direction this team may take. And as long as Miller is in the nets, I'm confident!
That being said, I think Drury is a part of the team I described. Sorry Briere. We'll miss you. Vanek will be back though. And a couple of FAs will be coming in too. Not necessarily big names either, mind you, but more likely those of good character, hard work, and blue collar hockey!
This is what I see at this early, early stage of the offseason. I could be right. I could be really far off. But this is what I see for next season, as of now. And yes, I see another Sabre team that very well COULD get back to the ECF (then again, it is always easier said than done).
Last thing !!! The fun will start immediately. Because I have word from SEVERAL reliable sources that next week will be a big one for the Buffalo Sabres. Very good chance some signings may take place, some announcements (possibly a major one or two) may be made, and if nothing else progress may come about in the UFA/RFA signings they'll need to make.
Welcome to the offseason, Hockey Fans.