Deadline Primer: What direction should the Sabres take?

Tomorrow could be a make or break trade deadline for Darcy Regier. I wouldn’t go so far as to say it will determine his future with the Sabres; but if he falters at the deadline, there could be ramifications in the summer.

Buffalo’s stance for deadline day has yet to be truly determined. Even by taking three of four points this weekend, and five of six for the week, the Sabres are still clawing to gain ground in the playoff race. There have been some bright spots this season and even as of late. However, there still seems to be far too many question marks surrounding the roster.

Derek Roy seems to be a prime candidate to be traded tomorrow.

Considering that, there should be one stance that Reiger should be taking; retooling his roster to improve the glaring weaknesses that have been revealed this season. While that is the approach that 60% of the NHL’s general managers will take, but the Sabres shouldn’t necessarily be labeled as a buyer/seller this season.

Regier’s stance should have been unwavering ever since December when his team began their slide towards the bottom of the conference. It was obvious that Buffalo needed to get tougher and better down the middle. Their secondary scoring had disappeared, but it wasn’t for lack of personnel. There are players on the roster who appear to be in need of a change of scenery and there are other players who just need to be sold for some return (see: UFAs).

With the Sabres still within shouting distance of a playoff spot, they haven’t dug themselves in as a buyer or seller, necessarily. However, Dave Pagnotta on The Fourth Period radio raised some excellent questions. He first made strong points by saying a number of teams need to realize that their roster is flawed and change is necessary. This was also pumped by Pierre LeBrun who said a handful of teams need to stop looking at the standings and start looking in the mirror. I would certainly count the Sabres among that group.

Another interesting point made by Pagnotta and Dennis Bernstein was that the Sabres shouldn’t be waiting any longer to make their call on Drew Stafford or Derek Roy. They made very cogent points that it is obviously time for change and a message needs to be sent to the locker room that a shift in attitude is necessary. It was actually a terrific show, you should get XM just for NHL Home Ice.

I’m in total agreement that the Sabres should be in a position to sell assets, or at least start the process of recycling talent to upgrade the roster. What is unfortunate is that Buffalo’s success this week will likely keep Darcy Regier from shipping off his tradeable pieces – namely Roy, Stafford and even Paul Gaustad. I expect to see a conservative approach from Regier in the hope that his team is indeed capable of finding a playoff position. Continue reading

Double Minors: Sabres come out for national audience

After another brief run of losses, the Buffalo Sabres responded. In front of a (sort of) national audience, the Sabres hung six goals on the Pittsburgh Penguins on their way to a 6-2 victory.

Buffalo had dropped four-straight after piecing together a solid run that had some thinking they were capable of salvaging some portion of this season. A few dismal efforts and one blowout all but squashed that type of thinking. Yesterday’s win was one of those, “where has this been?” type of games.

Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Christian Ehrhoff each picked up three points and Ryan Miller stood tall for his team all afternoon, stopping 24 of 26 shots.

For once there was goal support for the goaltender and goals came from both the top line and role players. The Gaustad/Kaleta/Gerbe line was brilliant and they were rewarded with the game winning goal. Ville Leino and Zack Kassian were fairly unnoticeable but each nabbed an assist. Of course Pominville continued to prove Lindy Ruff right regarding the captaincy with another MVP effort.

While this game may only prove to be evidence for trading certain pieces – Paul Gaustad won 16 of 23 draws and scored the winner – it was a refreshing reminder that the Sabres aren’t necessarily the worst team ever assembled. Sure, there are some flaws on this roster that need to be addressed. But there was promise in this season before everything hit the skids. While 2011-12 may be lost, know that with a few moves the 2012-13 team will be solid.

  • It is interesting to hear how different fans interpret the performances of different players. For example, Ryan Miller can’t seem to catch a break with some and Christian Ehrhoff only has a few good games here and there. Fact of the matter is, each of those players had a fantastic outing yesterday afternoon.
  • Miller may not have been given a star, but he had a few dazzling saves (Malkin, Martin etc.) yesterday. You may argue that both goals were stoppable, but Miller made big saves when his team needed them. I was against starting him but he had a fantastic outing. His play since January 1 has been sound, he is looking like the goalie from October once again.
  • Christian Ehrhoff has a cap hit of $4m. That is a bargain. I could care less what his actual salary is. His play at both ends of the ice has been sound. Regardless if he hasn’t scored 15 goals (seriously, get real), Ehrhoff has been a steady force this season and has proved to be a wise acquisition.
  • Derek Roy looked like an elite hockey player yesterday. I’m not sure what put him in such a funk this season, but he looked like a player that is going to be a commodity next Monday.
  • Jason Pominville and Ryan Miller both play for Team USA. They both had great games on Hockey Day in America. Great showing from a couple players who may just be wearing the red, white and blue at the World Championships.
  • Hockey Day in America is still young, but I see a pretty awesome future in store for the event. I don’t expect Knicks fans in Brooklyn to sit down to watch the Rangers in five years, but this is the type of day to bring attention to the nation’s true hockey cities. Not for their pro teams so much as the hockey culture that exists. I’m pumped for the day NBC broadcasts with kids playing on the frozen canals at Canalside as a backdrop.
  • Paul Gaustad’s trade value has to be astronomical. He kick started his season with the “Where’s Chara?” game against the Habs. He has been worth just about every penny they’re spending on him since then – maybe only a $1.75m cap hit. He saw a steady diet of Evgeni Malkin all afternoon and won a ton of draws. Oh yes, he also scored the game winning goal. There have to be a half-dozen suitors willing to spend far too much on his services until the Cup Finals.
  • Speaking of Goose. Gord Miller shared the fact that he met with Darcy Regier in private yesterday. I’m assuming that conversation discussed the fact he will be traded by Monday. The conversation likely touched on the idea that the Sabres will re-sign Gaustad on July 1.

Game Summary/Event Summary