Before I begin I would like to preface this post by saying a sincere to thank you to the Pegula Family, as well as the entire sabres organization for arguably one of the most exciting off seasons in team history. The future of this franchise is brighter than it has ever been.
With that being said. It seems for now that the Buffalo Sabres are re-enacting an old slogan. "The Tradition Continues" by falling just short on promises made. They hit the ball out of the park with their actions and acquisitions of Robyn Regher and Christian Ehrhoff. Buffalo Sabres fans rejoiced when the news spread of their aggressive tactics to shore up their blue line. (Ryan Miller is most likely happier than anyone)
The stage was set for the top tier first line center that everyone expected. All eyes were on the now former Dallas Star Brad Richards. The actions performed by the Sabres prior to the opening of free agency all but implied that come hell or high water we are signing Richards. As the day progressed it was all but evident that the franchise of choice for the highly coveted center was going to be the New York Rangers. At the same time though, The choice for Defense-man Christian Ehrhoff was to test the free agent market. This proven by his actions of declining the Vancouver Cannucks and New York Islanders offers to sign him. Terry Pegula and the Buffalo Sabres were able to effective pitch Buffalo to him and change plans that were all but set in stone. Would Richards follow suit?
Where the disappointment comes in for this hockey fan is not that they didn't land Brad Richards, but that they didn't even try. The sabres need to be commended for what appears to be changing the inevitable. In the last week they have convinced players to come here that had no movement clauses, and deter players from testing the market place. The momentum they had seemed unstoppable. I can completely understand if Brad Richards did not want to sign here. If that in fact was the case, then say that in your press conference. If Darcy Regier had come and said we contacted Brad Richards agent, and he said that no matter what you say or offer he will not sign with you, fine, at least you tried. Instead, you gave off the impression that you bailed on the cause, and you have done what Buffalo Fans are all but immune to now, falling just short of what you said you would deliver.
Ville Leino is definitely an offensive upgrade, but he is not a center. Not at the NHL level at least. The fact that the majority of his career was played at the center position is irrelevant. This is because the majority of his career (to date) was not in the NHL. The promise that was given to Buffalo fans was an upgrade at Center. That still has not happened. As good as a talent as Leino is, he is not better than Derek Roy at Center. Tenure at the position alone grants Roy that credit. He would be a definite upgrade over the recently departed Tim Connolly, but that isn't a 1st line center that is a 3rd line 2nd line center at best. Which means that our top tier center will need to come by way of trade. Based on Darcy Regier's comments at the Leino press conference. That trade is not coming. They said they would remain open to incoming trade offers, but will not be actively pursing one.
This is the head office equivalent of blowing a 2 goal lead with 1 minute left in regulation.
I don't want to end this on a negative note, so I will simply give a sincere apology to Darcy Regier. In my eyes Darcy has been incompetent for several years in the past, having what was perceived in my eyes as a "love fest" for his own drafted players as opposed to looking outside the organization for upgrades. I could not have been more wrong. Darcy it appears was simply following orders from the top, and being a good soldier following orders. The actions taken over this last week have proven that Darcy has the skills to pull the trigger on a big move provided he as the resources.
So for now they are the same old sabres in the fact that I don't expect a big trade for a first line top tier center. However, given the events of this last week I am not going to completely rule it out.