Ive been holding out hope for the Buffalo Sabres to make a run at the playoffs this season but with this weekends loses to the Flyers and Canadians that hope is all but gone. Lets look at the numbers, Toronto currently sits in 8th with 64 points. That is 9 points ahead of the Sabres who sit in the 15th and final spot in the east. The Maple Leafs are on pace to finish this season with 90 points. For Buffalo to not only catch but also pass Toronto they will need to collect 36 of a possible 48 points going forward. That works out to an 18-6 record in their final 24 games, and that’s just not going to happen.
With the Penguins coming into town tomorrow afternoon, fresh off a 6-4 win over the Flyers, they need to start thinking of next season. With the trade deadline quickly approaching Darcy needs to look at rebuilding the team not just making tweaks to the existing roster. The game has changed and its time for the Sabres to change as well. Terry Pegula did a great job of addressing the teams need for defense by trading to get Robyn Regehr from Calgary and the rights for Christian Ehrhoff from the New York Islanders when they couldn’t sign the defensemen to a deal after acquiring his rights from the Vancouver Canucks. Now its time to overhaul the offense.
The Sabres have three players set to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. Brad Boyes, Jochen Hecht, and Paul Gaustad are all set to hit the open market on July 1st. Pat Kaleta, Tyler Ennis and Marc-Andre Gragnani are also set to become restricted free agents.
At the deadline I see the Sabres as definite sellers at this point, the players that should draw the most intrest from other teams are Paul Gaustad, cap hit of 2.3 million, and Derek Roy, cap hit of 4 million for this year and next. If I were the Sabres I would part ways with both players on deadline day and take whatever I could get. During the off-season you can let Hecht and Boyes walk.
You look at the lines without those players and they look decent for a rebuilding process. Tyler Ennis has shown signs of being able to be a top 6 center. Place him in the middle of Vanek and Pominville. Bring up Foligno from Rochester along with Luke Adam to play the wing on a line with Zack Kassian and Luke Adam. Sabres fans may recall the trio leading the Sabres squad to the title in the 2011 Traverse City Prospects Tournament. Cody McCormick could center an energy line of himself Pat Kaleta and Nathan Gerbe. That leaves Drew Stafford and Ville Leino without an adequate center, sorry Matt Ellis but you wont do in this position.
Defensively the Sabres only have one player that could crack the top 6 coming out of training camp next fall, Brayden McNabb. Assuming Myers, Regehr, Ehrhoff and Jordan Leopold are your top 4 that leaves a 4-way battle for the 5 and 6 defensemen spots. Sekera looks to win one of those 2 spots with Mike Weber, Marc-Andre Gragnani, and Brayden McNabb will have to battle for the last spot.
This will not be an immediate fix, it will be a slow process but sprinkle in a few smart draft picks and key free agent signings a lot of pieces are already in place for this team to become relevant once again. Ownership cannot just throw money at your problems and hope to be able to win. This team has quality players but needs a lot of work.