A little over a month ago, I wrote a column detailing what the Sabres’ plans for this offseason should be (see: Sabres’ Potential Blueprint, May 13th, 2010.) Some of my suggestions are still viable, others not (ex: Jason Arnott being dealt to New Jersey, Nathan Horton to Boston.)
After writing the previous article, I had a chance to review the 2009-10 season for the Buffalo Sabres. For some odd reason, it seemed to me as if this scenario had happened before. And then it hit me: this predicament that Buffalo finds themselves in happened to them exactly ten years ago.
In 2000, the Sabres had just been eliminated in the first round of the playoffs by the Philadelphia Flyers. The year before that, 1999, Buffalo had made it to the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 24 years. And the year before that, 1998, they had gone to the Eastern Conference Finals. To sum it up, over those three years, each time Buffalo went into the playoffs in search of a Stanley Cup ring.
After that loss to the Flyers, Sabres General Manager Darcy Regier looked over his roster and noticed three things: 1. The team was getting older. Buffalo had eight players on their roster who were at least 30 years old by the time the season got underway. 2. The Sabres had many players whose contracts would be expiring after the 2000-01 season, and 3. Most of the players on the roster were not drafted by the organization during the Regier/Lindy Ruff era. They were either acquired by Regier and Ruff via trade or free agency, or were brought in during the John Muckler/Ted Nolan era.
So what Regier and Ruff decide to do? They looked over the roster and decided that now was the time to make one last run at the Stanley Cup with this group of players. They knew that changes were going to come after the upcoming season, and that the team needed to get younger.
During the summer of 2000, they went after a few free agents on the market and managed to keep a few of their own players for one more year. Older players on the roster such as Dominik Hasek, Doug Gilmour and Vladimir Tsyplakov decided to stick around for one more crack at a championship. And although the only major free agent signee was 37-year-old Dave Andreychuk, nevertheless it was a smart one.
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