The Cup has a new home in LA and the 2011-2012 season has ended but it will be awhile before the sour taste from the Sabres’ effort leaves. After being so high on the team before the season, I’m even tempted to get excited about next year. That’s also because it’s not even July, so hyping myself up too much before October will surely do no good. One thing that always excites me, however, is the potential for change. Given Regier’s recent history and mounting pressure from all sides, the upcoming draft may bring huge changes for the Sabres.
Since the Sabres have four picks in the top 50, several thoughts have been made about Buffalo possibly trading up. Since Pegula bought the team, Regier has been much more active in the draft and at trade deadlines so it’s not unthinkable that he makes another trade to scramble the roster. Surely nobody saw the Kassian/Hodgson trade this past February. However, Regier has said that he has ”more calls going out than [he’s] receiving.” So a Yakupov or Galchenyuk may be out of the picture, especially given Regier’s quote about the lack of a consensus number 1 pick.
There has been some chatter about 2013’s draft class being loaded (which, unfortunately is hearsay for this post at this point since I’m unable to find real articles about it). If 2013 turns out to be a solid class, full of talent, it may be better for the Sabres to maneuver into a similar position in next year’s draft. The downside of this strategy is sacrificing making larger changes this year. But given the right trade partner, preparing for next year may not be difficult. People thought Regier was crazy for asking a 1st round pick for Gaustad, but Nashville was desperate enough to make that trade. Teams are less desperate at the draft of course and it could be argued that Buffalo may be on the more desperate side this go around but waiting may be the best move.
This will probably be an unpopular opinion given everyone’s frenzy and win now attitude since Pegula took over, but personally, I could take another year of crushing mediocrity or worse if it meant a more sustained run at greatness. Sure one championship will make everyone ecstatic, including myself, but would you rather have one title or a shot at multiple titles? The Sabres have a lot of players who are still developing. There is a great need for a #1 center but he may already be on the team in Cody Hodgson or Tyler Ennis, they just need more time. They have Foligno and McNabb who have shown great potential and will be much better after a full year in the NHL. The Sabres’ 2011 #1 pick, Joel Armia, won’t even be in the country for at least another year, but may provide more scoring that the Sabres need when he finally arrives.
The team definitely suffered from chemistry issues after the radical roster moves in the offseason and more of the same this year doesn’t feel like the answer. This leaves the team in transition from the old “core” into a new one that hasn’t materialized yet. Another year of Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff to grow into leadership roles could help. Jason Pominville will hopefully build on his solid leadership and consistency. Who knows? Maybe Ville Leino can carve his own niche into this team.
One potential snag with this dream is the goaltending. Miller has been inconsistent since the 2010 Olympics but still shows that he can throw the team on his back for a couple games. The perfect storm for the team and Miller could wind up in a title but it’s not something I’d be comfortable betting on. Enroth has shown he is capable of one day holding down the net, but needs more time to develop as well. A season with a real goalie rotation would definitely move him closer.
After another season with all of the young talent developing and the current roster finding their respective roles with the team, a shot in the arm from a top talent in the 2013 draft class may be the push to take the Sabres to the next level. This of course hinges on finding the right pick next year and making the deals necessary to land that pick. It would also mean a potentially disastrous season in 2012-2013 if players downgrade rather than improving.
This weekend should provide a glimpse into what the Sabres plan to do with the roster for next season and could potentially be pretty drastic. This abundance of picks could swing them some proven talent to propel Buffalo to a playoff run or stock up their organization for a better team down the road. It’s impossible to predict exactly what will happen and therefore most likely end in disappointment, but it’s fun to dream and provides some new material to think about until we get closer to October