The Sabres played their first game in front of their new owner last night, and they laid an egg. Hopefully tonight’s game is a bit better.
While Terry Pegula has yet to obtain full control over the Sabres, all signs point to the final steps as a mere formality. The biggest question in Sabreland is, what changes will be made?
After playing 10 good minutes the Sabres went on to play 40 bad minutes before turning it on a bit in the final minutes of the third period. However, even without Sid the Kid and Geno, the Pens were a better team.
It is painfully obvious that Tim Connolly has mailed the season in and Andrej Sekera continues to baffle me with weak, uninspired play in the defensive zone. Yet, these guys still have a roster spot. I would be beyond shocked if Tim Connolly was offered a contract this summer, by any NHL team.
It seems that certain people on the radio and scores of fans are under the impression that Pegula is going to come in and demand the entire roster be traded. I highly doubt that. However, I will go out on a limb and say Ryan Miller, Tyler Myers, Thomas Vanek and Tyler Ennis are likely the names that comprise the “do not trade” list in the Sabres offices.
The important thing to keep in mind in regards to this team is that they are not built to win in the playoffs. They may be missing one or two pieces, but they still could not win a seven-game series.
Small forwards aren’t a bad thing, however, an overabundance of them certainly is. When you’re top two or three lines have Derek Roy, Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe taking regular shifts – add Connolly and Jason Pominville (they play small) on them, you are over the limit. Sure, Derek Roy is hurt, but that opened the door for Paul Byron, another water bug. The things I like about guys like Drew Stafford an Thomas Vanek are that they use their bodies to their advantage, they don’t need to run around and hit people, but they are effective in using their size to their advantage.
The key for the Sabres as they move forward will be to identify quality players who can add a layer of physicality that this team is currently lacking. Sure your third and fourth lines have a little grit. But, they would be better off scratching Connolly and dressing Matt Ellis to form a true fourth line. The line of Connolly, Gerbe and McCormick is a hodgepodge of a line you saw at the outset of the season that helped dig the Sabres the hole they currently sit in.
Signing a guy like Colby Armstrong would have been huge for this team. He would have rounded out the forward ranks a bit more and added some extra tenacity if you paired him with Paul Gaustad and either Pat Kaleta or Mike Grier.
The trade deadline is only a couple weeks off. Landing a winger like Armstrong would be a major score for Buffalo. Another would be to find a quality center who has the ability to score goals but isn’t simply an offensive guy, we already have two of those centers, they wear 19 and 9.
The problem is that the Sabres will need to ship off talent that the teenybopper fanbase has grown to love. If a guy like Connolly, Gaustad, Grier etc. needs to be moved to bring in actual talent, so be it.
On my short list of potential players to snag: Stephen Weiss and Joel Ward. I would even kick the tires on a guy like Jack Skille.
Just injecting a bit more sandpaper might make this team a lot harder to play against.