Posted 1:58 PM ET | Comments 1
The time has come for the Sabres to commence an overhaul. No more waiting for that breakthrough year from team-drafted players. No more counting on primary offensive players to provide secondary scoring. No more patience with veterans who simply do not perform. The core of this group will simply not get it done.
The needs and shortcomings of this team have been glaring and well established by many a fan. We know the depth of scoring is an issue. It's obvious that the defence is not as impenetrable as once thought. The compete level is not what it needs to be in order to win on a consistent basis in this league.
Yada yada yada. This is a recording. The same tale is told every year without much change to the core group of players. Without disecting what has been ripped apart already, it's time to take a long, hard look at what we have, and what we don't have. There is one piece that needs to be addressed immediately.
Since the departures of Danny Briere and Chris Drury, this team has lacked proper leadership. Captains? No. We've had plenty of those. Players who play the game wearing a "C" on their jersey, talk to the referee when there is an issue, take ceremonial faceoffs. We've covered that quite well. If Stanley Cups could be rewarded to those who have the most ceremonial faceoff wins, we could be right up among the contenders in the NHL.
The reality is, there are no prizes for simply naming someone captain. A true champion has a captain who is a leader of men. A player you can call on in the clutch. Someone who will represent the team and city in the media and answer the tough questions. A man who will hold everyone accountable, will not practice or tolerate a lack of competitiveness, and who makes sure sure any who choose to do so hears about it.
When teams and fans across North America think of the Buffalo Sabres, what comes to their minds? Who is the player that they think of? Some will say Thomas Vanek, and rightly so. To the majority, however, the Buffalo Sabres are known as the team that has Ryan Miller. Because of that, Miller has often taken on a leadership role in the past. Does such an approach make sense?
Vancouver tried to do the same with Roberto Luongo. He was named an honorary captain. That experiment was short-lived, though, in favor of Henrik Sedin.
No team in NHL history has successfully used a goaltender as their primary voice. Why should we feel that this Buffalo Sabres team is different from any team who has ever won the cup?
Don't get me wrong. I am a Jason Pominville supporter. I own a jersey bearing his name. But I find it increasingly difficult to justify naming him the representitive of my team and the city of Buffalo. Once a player of the calibre of a Dustin Brown, Zdeno Chara, Jonathan Towes, or Sidney Crosby is be added to this squad, Ryan Miller can go back to focusing on what he does best, stopping pucks.
Now I'm not naive in thinking that the Buffalo Sabres could lure one of these players away from their teams. Their teams want them for a reason. What the Sabres need is that type of player in a leadership role. Granted, such players cannot be purchased by just anybody at your local corner store. Which means the man at the helm needs to be a special kind of person.
Does Darcy Regier have the intestinal fortitiude to rebiuld this team into a competitor? His record of patience and loyalty to his players is admirable but is not what this team needs right now. The Buffalo Sabres are not a charity. The owner wants to win. The fans want a winner. The team needs players who are desperate to win...at all cost. It is with this reason that I propose an idea for our newest GM.
BRIAN BURKE. Say wha? For serious? In a heartbeat. The fans have been clammoring for changes to this core and he is the man to do it. Burkie is a competitor, egotistic, and self-confident. Are these the types of traits you'd want to see more of in this team? I know this writer does. He will quickly evaluate the dead weight of this team and dispose of it. Realistically, he has had the last few years to do so as GM of the Maple Leafs. But beyond having the goods to make deals and build a competitor, there is one factor that makes Brian Burke in Buffalo all the more intriguing (besides the obvious alliterational joys).
Looking at his departure from Toronto, do you think he is sitting back and cheering for the leafs to win the cup? Do you think he has nothing to prove? If you know anything about Burkie, you know he is still stinging from being fired. He is extremely motivated and has A LOT to prove. He wants to land somewhere where he can make the Maple Leafs regret the day they let him go. What better place then their rivals down the QEW?
We know his family is located in the Boston area and he no doubt wants to be closer. Although Anaheim is a familiar, comfortable situation for him, he doesn't want to be anything other than ''the man'' on the team he works for. Brian, come to Buffalo. You can be ours.
Not all is lost. There are some key pieces in place on this team that can lead to this team's future success. Having young players in Grigorenko, Girgensons, Armia, and Pysyk along with other up-and-comers in Andrey Makarov and the speedy pest, Dan Catenacci, can only mean positive things for the future of this franchise. Although many may feel different, the Sabres posses one of the top goaltenders in the league, really, in the world in Ryan Miller. Cody Hodgson's progress, in the midst of a season where many young players experience the dreaded "sophmore slump", has propelled him to the top of sophmore scoring, playing with Vanek and Pominville.
With the right man at the helm, and a leader of men wearing the ''C'', this team can rise again. No doubt this draft will be a key part of the team doing so. Hopefully we have the right man making the important decisions.