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Thursday, 19 January 2012

Sabres core

I’ll admit it, I don’t understand the Buffalo Sabres.  I don’t understand when the owner comes out and says he “believes” in the  team and that the main problem for the team is injuries.  I don’t understand when the president of the organization comes out and says fans (bloggers and journalists) need to have more patience. (Is  41 years not enough patience?) I don’t understand when the GM says he’s not going to shake up a lineup that is obviously stale and not championship caliber.  Let’s not even talk about this year in that regard.  Let’s talk about the past two seasons when the Sabres were bounced from the first round of the playoffs by bigger more physical teams.  That’s what I’m talking about, not the bunch on the ice now, because as we all know and Terry Pegula has reminded us, this team is not the team they thought they’d have.  I also don’t understand the coach when he talks about it being his fault for players not playing hard or skating well or other such excuses. 
I don’t understand when the “elite” goaltender comes out and says that no trade will shake this team into playing that it has to come from within.  From within the locker room and from within each player.  However, I do understand something – the team is on a better (not right but better) course.  The GM is allowed to spend to that cap. He did just that over the summer and it’s now hurting the team.  Bravo that he has that ability for the first time in his tenure, but he didn’t do it very well.  Sure we got a couple of marquee players from the weak group of the free agent class and they both will be part of the team that leads the Sabres to a better future.  However, are they difference makers on Cup winning teams?  They can be, but unfortunately not with the current core group of players.  Individually the Sabres cores are a talented bunch, but collectively something has gone awry. 

Thomas Vanek is the best of the bunch belongs in the conversation with the games second tier of elite players.  Players like Kane, Toews and Sedin.  He’s not Crosby or a right-minded Ovechkin, but he is an elite player that’s for sure.  He makes a living in front of the net and can pin point a shot with anyone in the league.  Imagine what he’d do with players of his caliber on a true number 1 line.

Ryan Miller is an elite goalie having an off year.  For anyone who disagrees let’s look at Tim Thomas a couple of years ago … he wasn’t even a “has been” at the time he was a “never was,” but look at him now.  Now is not the time to give up on Miller.

Derrick Roy is a solid second line center or a great third line center.  He can pass and score, but has proven incapable of any kind of leadership role.

Drew Stafford is a highly skilled player who has reached his potential for three-quarters of one season.  Last year, a contract year, he scored 31 goals.  That’s an outstanding season, but he doesn’t appear to have what it takes to be a night in night out first line winger or the will to “bring it” every night.

Jason Pominville is slightly behind Vanek and would be a great second line winger and from what I can tell a good captain. 

Finally, Paul Gaustad, the last member of the group and least skilled of the “core.” He came up as a motor guy who hit, fought and brought energy and has turned into a faceoff specialist who stands around watching his goalie get creamed while doing nothing. 

You’ll notice two things that were  nowhere in the previous paragraphs one is the word – toughness and the other is a top two defesneman.  This group is not tough and they have no defense as part of the “core.”  However, both on the horizon with players like Tropp, Kassian, Foligno, McNabb and of course the Tylers Myers and Ennis.  These player are with here now or already staking claim to make the roster next season.  But that doesn’t’ help the Sabres now and as hope is never a planning factor, it shouldn’t start with the hope that those players will continue to develop into first line, top two players.  The onus lies with the GM. 

The twitter hash tag #darcydosomething is not only a cry for the GM to make any move, but for him to make a big move involving the “core.”  Not a second rounder for a former talent, or some obscure player for another.  It’s time to move one of the core and shake things up. Like many people, I know the GM has an infatuation with “his” players but too bad.  You don’t think the Oilers GM had an infatuation with Gretzky, or the Bruins with Thornton or the Sens with Hossa?  Be real, none of this core should be untouchable, but unfortunately the delay is making one thing perfectly clear – no other team could possibly want any of this core other than Vanek or Pominville and the GM is now working from a position of weakness.  To move any of the others would take including one of the aforementioned potential stars.  Either Tyler Myers, McNabb or Kassian and it’s never good gutting your youth. 

I started this blog saying things I didn’t understand, let me end the same way. From my vantage point, there truly is only one thing I actually don’t understand – how does the owner not see what everyone else does – the GM has to go.  #TerryfireDarcy.


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