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2013 Years Old • Male
Before I begin, let me dissuade your urges to assume that I'm just an Islander fan looking to speak negatively about another NHL franchise that is, seemingly, a bit worse off than they were at the end of last season. Quite contrarily, I am not and it remains to be seen just how the Sabres will fare when things play out come October. But the reason for my concern and the reason for this brief blog stems from a simple observation that I made at last month's NHL draft.

First, it is vitally important to know that my concerns for the Buffalo Sabres have little to nothing to do with the departures of co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury - at least not in the short term. To me, Ryan Miller, Max Afinogenov, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Derek Roy, Brian Campbell, Alex Kotalik, Drew Stafford, Nathan Paetsch, Daniel Paille and others still make for as good a core as there is in this league and a very promising future. Did losing the firepower, leadership and knack for the clutch goal that both Briere and Drury brought to the team hurt? Of course it did! But, as I said to my fellow Islander fans about that mulleted, Ex-Oiler fellow leaving (for the life of me, his name just seems to escape me ... hmmph!) they're gone now and there's nothing anyone can do about it. Besides, regarding Drury anyway, when the evil empire that is the New York Rangers throws the kind of megabucks around the way they have done, once again, this off-season, what can you do? Take the Garth Snow approach: If they don't want to be here, screw 'em. And, while neither Briere nor Drury actually said it, nor would they, the fact that they are elsewhere means that they did not want to be in Buffalo, plain and simple. So, one more time, do it with me now (it actually feels good), SCREW 'EM!

All that aside, back to my "concern." It has been well chronicled throughout the hockey world that the Sabre higher-ups have done away with traditional amateur scouting in favor of video scouting and other new technological advances. No cause for concern up to this point, but the recent Buffalo draft class raised my eyebrows just a tad.

Buffalo's 2007 draft picks: T.J. Brennan (31st overall), Drew Schiestel (59th), Corey Tropp (89th), Bradley Eidsness (139th), Jean-Simon Allard (147th), Paul Byron (179th), Nick Eno (187th) and Drew Mackenzie (209th.)

With Brennan as a remotely possible exception, every member of the 2007 Sabre draft class was a significant reach, with Schiestel standing apart from the rest by leaps and bounds. Ranked 223rd by ISS, Schiestel himself was admittedly stunned when selected 164 picks ahead of his ranking. Even Brennan, an offensive-minded defenseman with a wicked slapper for St. John's in the QMJHL, was playing club hockey just two years ago and was slated for the mid-second round at best.

In their defense, the Sabres, as President's Trophy winners, didn't exactly have primo draft positioning and it's no secret that the NHL draft, perhaps far more than that of any other professional league, is hardly an exact science. But it's worth noting that some of these picks were legitimately "off the board."

Are the Sabres and their innovative scouting ways ahead of the curve? Time, and a lot of it, will certainly tell. I am not, in the least, concerned about Buffalo's immediate success. With Miller's goaltending, their plethora of young guns at forward and a solid defense corps (not to mention an outstanding coach in Lindy Ruff), I wouldn't be surprised at all to see them contend for home ice in the playoffs again next season. But looking further down the line, is it really a good idea to roll out innovations in something as time-tested and traditional as scouting?

This year's draft class certainly makes me wonder, that's all ...
Filed Under:   Sabres   draft   NHL   Drury   Briere  
July 11, 2007 9:41 PM ET | Delete
Hey man, the Isles have been bashed year in and year out for 'reaching' and drafting kids that were ranked well below where they got picked(see Kyle Okposo last year) and more times then not, the players proved them wrong. See, the way I look at it, rankings in the NHL draft are like anything other sport, where you played, your level of competition, your size they all come into account, but scouts can read hunger, guts, the 'it' factor, etc. that many of these kids possess, now I could be getting off track but as far as knocking(I know you weren't really 'knocking' them) a team because of who they drafted, to me at least, is silly. I seem to wait a couple seasons before I judge/critique a draft class.Go Isles Go!
July 11, 2007 10:31 PM ET | Delete
I don't think the Sabres are screwed, persay, because they still have an elite goaltender and this draft aside they have some great young talent. the loss of Briere pointwise and Drury leadershipwise hurts, but allows some younger players such as Drew Stafford more chance to grow. Also, the scouts can make mistakes and rank talent incorrectly, the result being that guys taken late in the draft shine like Daniel Alfredsson, Henrik Zetterberg, and Henrik Lundqvist while first round draft picks such as Wade Belak, Alexandre Daigle and Aki Berg do not. Maybe the Sabres' scouts know something nobody else does.That said I think Ottawa is the best team in the division this year.
July 12, 2007 12:40 AM ET | Delete
first off, briere openly stated he wanted to remain in buffalo, drury would have happily stayed as well the fact that management let them go and didnt pursue them does not mean that they did not want to be here. secondly, you have a good point saying time will tell. it is nearly impossible to tell how good a player is unless he is competing against other nhl players. I for one am not worried that the sabres "reached" for their picks, with the exceptions of paille, vanek, stafford, kalinin, and zagrapan all players other players on the roster drafted by the sabres and in the minors are 2nd round picks or later. hopefully much of this year's draft class can develop as soundly as other years
July 12, 2007 7:36 AM ET | Delete
If Danny and Chris Really wanted to stay here they would still be here. Money Talks. Draft pick rankings are a Joke, Sure things are few and far between.. Miller was a 6th round pick right?
July 12, 2007 8:44 AM ET | Delete
I love the feedback. That's exactly why I penned this piece. Wanted to get you all thinking. Clearly, I've done that, at the very least! Keep it up! -Jon
July 12, 2007 9:28 AM ET | Delete
I don't think Buffalo is in trouble, but I don't think under their current ownership they'll ever win a Cup. They remind me of my own Philadelphia Phillies. They want to spend just enough money to win just enough games to keep just enough interest in the team to make a bit of money. If they happen to win a World Championship that's great. But they'll never go out and spend enough money (and maybe lose a few million) to put a Championship caliber team on the field (or ice). That's how I see Buffalo. They want to spend just enough money to put a playoff team out there. If they happen to get to the Stanley Cup Finals then that's just icing on the cake. But IMO, they'll never assemble a Stanley Cup Championship-caliber team due to finances. Last year was as close as they'll ever get, and notice, they spent to the cap. You can't give other teams an extra $5-$6-$7 million more dollars to spend. That's the equivalent of a first line player.
July 12, 2007 10:12 AM ET | Delete
I have to disagree with you here, JJ. I think several other teams in the East have now passed Buffalo. They will struggle to make the playoffs next season. I'm not sold on their core players either. They way overpaid for Vanek who is clearly one dimensional and a waste of ice on the defencive side of the rink. This guy will not come close to putting up the numbers he did this past year. And they are below average on the blue line, something that Ottawa exposed in the Conf. Finals and the team did nothing to address in terms of FA signings. I think they are toast next season.
July 12, 2007 10:44 AM ET | Delete
swuave, I have to contend a little bit here. From last year's roster we lose two guys (not including backup goalies), and we will drop from President's Trophy to missing the playoffs? Only difference I see is they will have a true grind line now, and toughness was a problem in the playoffs. Sure, they won't score as much without Drury and Briere, that's pretty obvious. Defensive issues were partly attributable to the track-meet style they wanted to play, and due to the loss of offensive talent it will be tightened up a little this year. Last year, Ottawa lost Chara and Havlat and got better. I am not worried in the least. Do I think the Sabres were better last year? Of course, but they're not decimated.
July 12, 2007 11:11 AM ET | Delete
lalalalafontaine--Havlat barely played the year prior to his leaving (18 games). When they lost Chara they brought in Corvo and Pressing to replace him. Who did Buffalo replace Briere and Drury with? Tim Connolley and Derek Roy? I'm not saying Buffalo is gonna tank, but please don't compare them to Ottawa. At least Ottawa had a backup plan...Buffalo doesn't seem to have one.
July 12, 2007 11:27 AM ET | Delete
I didn't mean to make a direct comparison to Ottawa in personnel, rather in that it was the same doom and gloom prediction for them last year. I'm just saying losing superstars is not always a deathblow. If the system works you have replacements...not superstars but players who can fit the role and hack it. Of course you question the quality of our young talent...they've barely played in the NHL...and a good portion of our success depends on them. The summer is far from over and Buffalo has money to spend. Whether they do or not is yet to be seen. Missing the playoffs though? Come on, that's a stretch, that was all I was saying, sorry if it sounded like a direct comparison to Ottawa in personnel.
July 12, 2007 1:54 PM ET | Delete
Buffalo may have money to spend, but the market for UFA's has dried up. There is nobody noteworthy to spend that money on at this point. Losing your top two offencive players will make a huge difference on your team. So far, nothing has been done to fill that void. Furthermore, nothing was done to address your lackluster blueline. Your defenceman were among the worst in the playoffs. That is an area where you really could have helped yourself with some decent UFA's that hit the market. Maybe I'm wrong, but I just don't see your team as a dangerous one next year. You will have to rely on winning low scoring games which puts added pressure on an already below average blue line. That is why I think your team will struggle next season. The gap between your team and teams like Toronto, Carolina, Florida, Philly has narrowed considerably. Maybe I'm wrong. But on paper, Buffalo is not a team that scares me or strikes me as dangerous.
July 12, 2007 4:59 PM ET | Delete
How bad can Vanek be defensively he was 47 and led the league? There is no way the Sabres are going to be even close to missing the playoffs. I think they are going to surprise alot of people with the quality of the players they put on the ice!!
July 12, 2007 5:07 PM ET | Delete
Vanek was 47 in large part because his line scored a ton. Now he is the only one left from that line. I will be incredibly surprised if the Sabres amount to anything next year.
July 12, 2007 5:08 PM ET | Delete
I dont know about all the other Sabres fans but I am excited to see how the youngins pan out this year. I think from what I have been reading....our scouting has been out of this world and we have some great talent coming up. How bad can it be? We did fine when we were out west when Drury and Briere were both out. The young ones step right in without skipping a beat.
July 12, 2007 5:11 PM ET | Delete
This season will test your theory, without question.
July 12, 2007 5:44 PM ET | Delete
swauve vanek played with max and roy and last time i checked there still gonna be on the team next year
July 12, 2007 5:56 PM ET | Delete
Not exclusively. Max only played 56 games and was plus 19.
July 13, 2007 2:34 AM ET | Delete
swuave get your facts right. vanek's 5 on 5 linemates are back and the sabres will dominate next year. probably finish fourth or fifth due to our streaky young scorers. (i.e. stafford, max, pommer, roy boy, tv, kotalik will be back and put up 25, plus role players hecht, mair, and goose) then come playoffs its miller time. get over your anti-sabres bias. don't hate. our management fouled up big time but the peices for a run are still there. this is hockey not hoops. anything can happen and we are staaaaaacked.
July 13, 2007 2:39 AM ET | Delete
basically we were too good last year and even anguishing through the losses of two (hockey) superstars are still putting a better team on the ice than (by my count) than at least 23 other teams in the nhl.
July 13, 2007 3:39 AM ET | Delete
I dont really know much about the Sabre's prospects with whom they will replace Drury and Briere, so I cant really comment about them specifically. But, what I have witnessed with the Flyers just last season was rookies thrown into roles on the team for which they were not ready, and that certainly effected the teams performance. I dont say this with any hatred toward the Sabres; I was hoping they would go on to win the Cup last season. But, I think Ottawa is the better team in the division, right now, and (as someone else already recognized) a lot of other teams in the Conference have improved this off season. For sure, the Sabres are a still a good team; they will certainly contend for a playoff spot. But they will likely finish anywhere between 4th and somewhere just outside the 8th and final playoff spot, imo, depending on how well the two players replacing Drury and Briere perform, as well as the rest of the team's ability to makeup for the loss. The other downfall could be the Sabres' defense, if the offense cant makeup for the loss in offensive production, due to Briere and Drury's departure. Last year, the Sabre's defense was average. Its not likely to be any better this year, and may even be worse, if the offense cant score enough to keep the other team out of the Sabres' d-zone.
July 13, 2007 10:37 AM ET | Delete
Cafare, I have no anti-Sabres bias. I am a Wings fan. I was actually rooting for the Sabres over Ottawa. You say the pieces are still there for a run. I couldn't disagree more. I guess we will just have to agree to disagree and we'll find out next season who was right. Good luck to you. I really think you'll need it.
July 14, 2007 1:42 AM ET | Delete
I just have to say that I think the Sabres will be a good team this year! What none of you seem to realize is that a lot of teams are going to need to dump salary or not be able to pay players after arbitration and a lot of these guys are gonna be good players and we could get someone that way. Plus I can't wait to see Hasek get injured and this year and watch the wings go down the toilet.
July 14, 2007 1:42 AM ET | Delete
I just have to say that I think the Sabres will be a good team this year! What none of you seem to realize is that a lot of teams are going to need to dump salary or not be able to pay players after arbitration and a lot of these guys are gonna be good players and we could get someone that way. Plus I can't wait to see Hasek get injured and this year and watch the wings go down the toilet.
July 14, 2007 1:38 PM ET | Delete
But what makes you think the Sabres are gonna spend money on any of those players if they didn't even want to spend it on their own captains?
July 14, 2007 2:30 PM ET | Delete
I dont know if money was the real issue, Snots. I believe they offered Drury about the same as the Rangers, but Drury wanted to play for the Rangers more -- dont ask me why; I cant figure that one out either, but, I do believe this was more the case, as much as many people, including Drury and the Sabres, may not want to say. Same goes with Briere. Although, I dont believe they were willing to pay Briere what he was being offered by the other teams, I still wonder if he would have chose to move on anyway, and play with a different team he liked, especially the chemistry he might have on the line with whom he'd be playing. I really think Briere was intrigued by the idea of playing on a line with Gagne and Knuble, and really likes the what they Flyers have done to improve the team, its core players and the competitive history of the organization. Plus, his buddy Biron signed with the Flyers. It would have been interesting to know what his decision would have been if the Flyers offered him less or the Sabres more. But, I guess we'll never really know.
July 14, 2007 2:57 PM ET | Delete
July 14, 2007 3:02 PM ET | Delete
Connolly will hopefully replace most of Briere's numbers this year. He was out all last year. Stafford and Paille will eventually replace some leadership in years to come. I'm not sure who's gonna be the clutch player and leader this year but I expect someone to step up.I think the sabres will pretty much go with what they have now and if it looks like they will make the playoffs will pick up somebody for the run.
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