Sunday, my wife and I ventured off to Buffalo for lunch with her mother, and then for the ever popular Sabres Draft Party. This blog is going to cover the Sabres draft, and the atmosphere in First Niagara Center as the day progressed.
Like many others, we arrived at FNC and I was on my phone following up on every rumor that I could find. I had donned my Taro Tsumimoto #74 jersey in honor of the draft. The Tyler Myers rumor was circulating heavily within about 5-6 minutes of us being in the arena. There was a nervous anticipation in the arena, and as always, Sabres fans hopes were high. However, underlying that, was concern as to what Darcy would do. Several individuals I spoke with in passing expressed concern as to what would be done with the draft picks in the first round.
To pass the time, my wife and I took the coveted “Sabres Locker Room Tour”. For those of you who haven’t taken the tour, above the door, leaving the locker room for the ice, the words “Belief, Commitment, Character, Discipline, Trust” are on the wall. Below those 5 five words, is in bold letters the word “Excellence”. While it is inspiring words, I don’t think the players have yet to take it to heart. We looked at the information sheet with facts about the locker room. Pretty fancy place. I wish they put the effort they did into the locker room into putting a good team on the ice. On our way out of the locker room, we were haunted by being reminder that, according to Terry Pegula- “Starting today, the Buffalo Sabres’ reason for existence will be to win the Stanley Cup.”
No pressure fellas.
After taking in the sights, we ventured to our seats and got ready for the draft. Little did I know a former Sabres defenseman had spotted my jersey, which added for more laughter during a day that had little humor in it. We had arrived at our seats when I checked Twitter on my phone. I saw that Jay McKee had determined that he was going to fight an individual as soon as he was done with his autographs. I checked the picture. To my shock, there was the back of my Tsujimoto jersey. We all had a good laugh in section 103, joking that Jay McKee was coming for me. To verify, check my Twitter account- @SabresBTB I retweeted his tweet, it’s a little ways down the page, but you can’t miss it.
Enough laughter for now, things got really serious after that.
I can deal with the number 8 pick, Rasmus Ristolainen. I was rather surprised that Buffalo took Ristolainen, especially with Valeri Nichushkin remaining on the board. While Buffalo’s defense was lacking last year, they definitely bulked up by taking Ristolainen. While I wasn’t too happy with it, I can understand it. It appears that Ristolainen can be NHL ready, and able to jump into the NHL now. The response from FNC however, was a weak applause at best. Not a lot of people too excited about that one.
After the Sabres took Ristolainen, several individuals got up and left.
Then Buffalo took Nikita Zadorov with the 16th pick, another big defenseman. This time, Hunter Shinkaruk, a highly ranked forward, was still on the board.
FNC was not applauding. 2-3 people applauded, and several more individuals got up and left the arena. The gentleman sitting next to us stated very loudly “That’s it! I’m done!” and left, followed by his wife who looked equally disgusted. They weren’t the only ones who looked pretty upset by this. Several people looked fairly confused. My wife and I left shortly after this as well. Listening to WGR in the car, several people identified that the moves made were “safe”, but not ones that could help the team in the present.
Unless Zadorov is NHL ready next season, he’ll be spending another year in the OHL. Plus, Buffalo already has several defensemen.
The trade for Canes 2nd pick was a good move, bringing McBain to Buffalo and more importantly, moving Sekera. That was the highlight for me. Buffalo had a chance to bring in another player to help the team. But, Buffalo, JT Compher brings in a forward who is headed to college, and we get to wait 4 years to see what happens.
Let’s look at the last 2 picks in the 2nd round; Connor Hurley and Justin Bailey. These 2 players aren’t really NHL ready. Hurley is a junior in high school, and has committed to play hockey for Notre Dame after he graduates high school. Justin Bailey has been playing for the OHL, and will be headed back to the OHL if he doesn’t earn a spot on the Sabres roster this year.
SO, let’s recap. 1 defenseman who is possibly NHL ready, 1 defenseman who will probably be in the OHL another year, 2 forwards who are going to be off to college (1 still in high school), and 1 forward who will probably be back to the juniors as well.
Now, I’ll be completely honest, the scouting reports on all of these players indicate that they are hard workers, tough and good 2-way players. This is what Buffalo needs. However, they need it now. It was a good draft by Buffalo, but we won’t see the results any time soon.
That’s 4-5 years down the road.
On the way home, we continued to listen to WGR and I got to hear that hockey genius, Darcy Regier, talk about the draft. He identified at one point about how the NHL was going back to a game that favors large players who are willing to get dirty. However, a few of the players Buffalo took are not going to be ready for a few years. The style of the NHL changes with the tides. Just because that’s how it is now, doesn’t mean it’s how it will be when these players are ready.
I’ve got a few frustrations with these picks. First, Buffalo struggled this year defensively. There’s no denying that. However, it wasn’t as horrid as it could be. Ryan Miller kept the games close, and Buffalo didn’t always get blown out of the water. However, it wasn’t just the defenseman who played poorly, it was the forwards out there as well. I like the idea of Ristolainen, but I’m not sure Buffalo needed to spend their top 2 picks on 2 defenseman.
Buffalo needs help offensively. They didn’t really get help for the upcoming season. I was hoping that with the trade, Buffalo would have at least taken a forward who is NHL ready and can spring into action now. However, that didn’t happen, nor did it happen with Hurley. Bailey is a maybe. He might be ready, but probably not for another year or two.
That brings me to the frustrations of everyone in Buffalo (including myself). I went into the draft thinking that Buffalo would help the team and pull in players that were ready to go now. Buffalo doesn’t need the help in 4-5 years, they need it now, especially on offense. I’m not sure that Buffalo is going to be able to find the help they need in free agency either. As fans left FNC yesterday, there wasn’t that sense that Buffalo had gotten some help for the upcoming season. It was that Buffalo has to wait even longer to see results from the 2013 draft. My tweet this morning was that the fans want to see moves to better the team now, not wait 4-5 years to see if things worked out.
Every pick brings risks. We can’t assess anyone because we haven’t seen what they can do on the ice at FNC. I don’t care what they do in the juniors, I care about NHL caliber play. That’s it. Time will tell on all the picks.
One thing is for certain, Buffalo didn’t get immediate help in this years NHL draft. I left FNC ready to buy one of the “Just One Before I DIe” t-shirts I kept seeing. I’m 29, fairly healthy, and I really am starting to question whether I’ll see one in my lifetime.
The draft didn’t bring help to Buffalo for the 2013-2014 year. Now, we must rely on free agency and any trades that can take place. The players picked may help a lot in the future, but again 4-5 years down the road. Like I said, the future looks very promising, yet several years away. The picks made help build for the future, but don’t provide anything to help for this upcoming year. Buffalo needs help now. And the fans are sick and tired of waiting.
Buffalo is entering their 43 season of existence. 0 Stanley Cups.
We are fast approaching 50 years, and as of right now, no Stanley Cup in sight. I wonder if Buffalo will win one by the golden anniversary of the team.
At this point, I’ll settle for “Just One, Before I Die.”
Follow me on Twitter- @SabresBTB I’ll be live chatting at some point this week about the moves made by the Sabres and will go back to the draft as well. I’ll tweet when I’ll be on at some point later in the week. I’m waiting for some moves to be made.
As always, thanks for reading!