One thing is clear this season, the Sabres are inconsistent. They won 2 straight after dropping a pair. They get points in 10 straight just after not winning in 11 straight. The positive and negative streaks this season are plentiful. Why did this happen, sure we can blame the losses of Drury and Briere or the loss of Teppo on the blueline. Those are valid arguments but not the whole reason.
I think what really has contributed to the Sabres inconsistency is that they did not replace the leadership lost on July 1, 2007. Couple that with Ruff's reliance on the captain-du-juer, the Sabres have lacked stable leadership to keep the hand steady on the rudder.
So what has happened, the reigning President's Trophy winning team has to learn how to win all over again. The signs are hopeful that this team has learned their lesson at the right time. However this can go either way. A solid win streak may buy some comfort in the remaining weeks of the season. A repeat of January and you can look at the draft boards and dust off the golf clubs to get some choice tee times in early April.
Two major obstacles stand between the Sabres and the playoffs this season. First the Brian Campbell situation. If you believe the reports, Campbell should not be a Sabre any later than mid afternoon on the 26th. What the Sabres get in return could indicate what the front office thinks of their chances in the playoffs this season. Solid players that plug the holes in the lineup and the front office thinks they can go far in the playoffs. If we get back youth and picks, then the Sabres front office is writing the season off and looking to the future.
Both views can be validated. Winning now would be advantageous to those who believe that success in the short term means the fan base remains happy. Those who want picks and prospects take a longer term view of the health of the overall organization. There is a very good core of the team locked up for a few years. Having lost the likes of McKee, Dumont, Briere & Drury without return means that while the organization has good quality prospects, the quantity certainly is not there. Either way, losing Campbell means that the Sabres will have much more money to throw at the most important Sabre, Ryan Miller after July 1. Thanks Soupy for helping us out on that front.
The second issue is to make the choice and pick a permanent captain. I firmly believe that the man wearing the C is the man who should be that captain. Hecht has come to play every night and lead by example this whole season. He made the long term committment to the organization when he could have easily waited the Sabres out like Briere, Drury did and Campbell is doing. If you are thinking, no team has won a Cup with a Euro captain, stop and feed yourself feet first into a wood chipper. Your bigited thinking is not welcome on this earth. Pease help all humanity by throwing a little chlorine in the gene pool. Hecht, or any captain for that matter, with a mandate from the coaching staff will be able to command more respect and provide much more leverage to lead players.
What ever happens this season, I am optimistic about the Sabres future. I think they can easily make the playoffs with or without Campbell. I think they can be successful if the return for Soupy is picks or solid vets. However, as we have seen with this group of Sabres, seldom is it easy. Time will tell.