Monday, June 1, 2009

The Buffalo Sabres - Doing The Sabre Dance, Then Committing Seppuku

Buffalo Sabres Prolegomena: A Study in De-Evolution

The window has closed. The goddamn plane has crashed into the mountain. Sorry, Darcy Regier, it's Chinatown. The Buffalo Sabres were poised to win a Stanley Cup in the middle part of this decade - injuries derailed them in 2006, then the Ottawa Senators happened in 2007. Since then, the Sabres have lost key centers Daniel Briere and Chris Drury, as well as defenseman Brian Campbell (happily poisoning the Flyers', Rangers', and Hawks' salary caps as three of the worst contracts in the league), and the once-dominant offense has turned into simply good, revealing the paucity on the backline. The future, unfortunately, does not look exceptionally radiant for the Upstate New York Slugs - Regier has made a series of poor choices about whose contract to extend. Let's do a little exploration:

The Sabres have had the unfortunate problem of being too good. This is a serious problem in a salary cap environment - if every forward on a team is shooting above their career average, as happened on the 06-07 Sabres, they will ALL be overcompensated unless we expect them to improve for some other reason. The extensions of Jochen Hecht, Tim Connolly, and Jason Pominville are all dubious; all three are valuable players, but they take up far too much of a Buffalo team that already operates below the salary cap. Let's look at that now:

Is This A Dagger I See Before Me? Hang on, Sabres fans, it's not all bad news. Sure, Pominville, Hecht, and Connolly are being paid 13.2 million dollars. And yes, the defense is not only not good, but it's also UFA soon, with few replacements on the horizon.

Parrying The Future: The good news is that both Nathan Gerbe and Marc Andre Gragniani appear to be impressive prospects. Gragniani gives the Sabres a low-cost blueline option next season, as well as some insurance for 2010-11 when Lydman and Tallinder are set to hit UFA. Gerbe is a hit-or-miss type of prospect - he's put up impressive numbers everywhere, but he is only 5"5'. When Connolly gets injured (note the when), Gerbe should get his shot to stick.

Tom Golisano Is Like Bruce Willis Brandishing a Katana In Pulp Fiction (or How I Learned How To Stop Worrying and Love Frugality): Normally here's where there would be a section on what free agents Buffalo can look at with their money, but there is no guarantee the Sabres will look into signing anyone - they only spent $50.6 million last season. One never knows, but the management of Buffalo has never been instructed to open up the wallet, and it's unlikely to begin now.

2009-10 Projected Lines



ex: Paetsch


The Unkindest Cut Of All: Buffalo will be on the playoff cusp once again. Thomas Vanek is a legitimate star overshadowed by Ovechkin, Derek Roy is a solid first line center, and Ryan Miller is an All-Star goaltender. Problem is, there's too many overpriced players. A daring general manager might've been able to fob off Pominville or Stafford, recognizing that they are going to be overcompensated, but we're only four years into the salary cap era in the NHL - we've yet to see swashbuckling moves like that. Regier did manage to divest himself of Brian Campbell in the middle of a playoff race, but his return on that deal was only a 1st and 3rd round picks, plus a few games of Steve Bernier. They should've gotten more for him. In summary, the Buffalo Sabres are literally paying for its past success; they will hover around the playoffs for the next few seasons, but there appears to be no remedy: they will not get much better, and they will not get much worse.

1 comment:

  1. Very entertaining post, even though I am a Sabres fan I like it, it is the cold hard truth. Although no one knows how it could have been prevented, this team fell apart in the last two years.

    The Sabres are in slightly better shape on the blueline than you've stated here. Tyler Myers is probably only a year away, and was great in the World Juniors. We also have Mike Weber in the minors, and Chris Butler who looks like a top line defenseman in a year or two.

    Keep up the good work, and Go Sabres.