A month ago when the Sabres lost Chris Drury, Daniel Briere and Danius Zubrus in the span of about a week Sabres fans wanted someone's head. I think now that they have settled down a bit and took a step back, they have realized, the Sabres aren't all that bad.
The biggest loss of the three is definitely Chris Drury and he will certainly be the
hardest to replace. Anyone can replace goal scoring, but with Drury it was the intangibles that made him so attractive. He was the heart and soul of that team and probably would have never gone as far as they did without him. That being said, where did they really go, two years in a row the Sabres were expected to get to the Stanley Cup finals and they did not.
As much as Darcy Regier wanted to keep Drury and Briere, he also realized that a shake up wouldn't be a bad thing. The truth is the Sabres are loaded. Even without Drury, Briere and Zubrus they can still potentially lead the league in scoring again. Last season the Sabres went most of the year without Tim Connolly. He'll center the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville on his wings. As much as the two benefited from Briere's play making last year he benefited even more playing along side them. If healthy, you can bank on Connolly having an 80 point season.
The emergence of Derek Roy
and Drew Stafford made letting Briere and Zubrus go easier. Roy had 63 points last year while playing considerably less than he will this year. He'll give Connolly a run at 1st line in training camp. So with the first two lines spoken for what are fans really worried about? Depth? Paul Gaustad and Michael Ryan will be perfect 3rd and 4th line centers. With Ales Kotalik, Jochen Hecht and Maxim Afinogenov, the Sabres have plenty of fowards that can score.
Regier had to make a lot of tough decisions this off season. He knew he had to resign both Vanek and Roy and that they are both the future of this team. He really didn't want Drury to go, but Drury had already made up his mind, he wanted to be closer to his hometown. Signing Vanek and Roy will prove to be better moves than breaking the bank for Briere and Zubrus. Tough decisions like these are what makes Regier one of the best GMs in the league.
The biggest issue the Sabres will face is team defense and leadership, but I get the feeling Lindy Ruff has a few tricks up his sleeves that will solve that. Maybe they don't win the division this year, but Sabres fans shouldn't panic, the playoffs are a lock.