It’s Dan Mount and it’s time for the Friday NHL headlines. Today is going to be a discussion of what’s going on with the Buffalo Sabres and their troubles. As always, you can leave comments below or follow me on Twitter @DanMountSports.
The dullness of the Sabres
It was no secret at the beginning of the season that the Buffalo Sabres were going to struggle. Many experts picked them at or near the bottom of the division and even the entire league. However, no one thought the team would be the worst team in the league with only three points as of today.
The team was supposed to have a new air of optimism when oil tycoon Terry Pegula bought the team in early 2011. (Pegula even pledged that the team would bring home a Stanley Cup at a press conference in February 2011.) However, the team has not lived up to expectations as it only made the playoffs in 2011 when Pegula first bought the club. The team has gotten worse under Pegula’s stewardship.
It’s not for a lack of trying. Some accuse Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson of being cheap, but that isn’t Pegula’s style as he’s tried to make all sorts of moves. The Sabres splashed the cash and signed Ville Leino. (The team was also in the mix for Brad Richards and other big name free agents.) There were also contracts given the Patrick Kaleta, Tyler Myers and a massive overpaying one to German star Christian Ehrhoff. Plus, there was also the trade for current captain and first-class agitator Steve Ott.
However, the signings have not lived up to expectations and most believe that Leino will be bought out this summer when his deal as one of the compliance buyouts allotted for each team. The last article I linked by Greg Wyshynski had some telling words at the end when it came to Leino’s signing.
(Please note this is the sort of thing one writes before seeing Leino flop in Buffalo, thus becoming a symbol of a novice billionaire hockey owner spending money haphazardly in his first summer.)
The other major front office blunder has been that General Manager Darcy Regier still is employed. The team tried to shake things up when it fired longtime coach Lindy Ruff. However, the club has lost its way under new coach Ron Rolston. Sabres fans are clearly getting annoyed by the constant failings of the front office. The fans know this is a team that is desperate need for a rebuild, and they need to get some new and younger pieces.
Both Ryan Miller and Tomas Vanek are free agents at the end of the season and may not be back in Buffalo. Rumors have been swirling for almost a year on who the Sabres will trade to and what they can get for the faces of the beleaguered franchise. However, nothing has been done as of yet. Sure, there was the rumored deal sending Miller to Edmoton for out of favor forward Nail Yakupov. (Which I talked about in last Friday’s headlines.) But that hasn’t satisfied this worried fan base. There have been reports that Regier is on the hot seat. If Darcy is allowed to stay, he could gamble by making a big move like the rumored Yakupov deal.
One other common denominator in the debacle is Pegula himself. Yahoo’s Puck Daddy blog did a pretty damning article on how things have gotten so bad for the team. He’s the one that allowed Regier to stay. He’s the one that allowed the new personnel to come in. He’s the one that allowed Ruff to get fired and approve of the Rolston hiring.
The Sabres have also got into the news for more than just losing. Kaleta was suspended 10 games after his cheap shot to Jack Johnson of Columbus. That was followed up by a vile hit by John Scott on Boston’s Loui Ericksson. (The hit will show up in the Worst Star at the end of the column.) Many wonder why these guys are even on an NHL roster as Scott has more than 300 penalty minutes and no goals. The team also has embarrassing third jersey.
However, it’s not all bad for this team. There are some good prospects in the system at Rochester and on the main roster. The team already has Mikhail Grigorenko, Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov playing in Buffalo. Marcus Foligno is on the main squad and only 21 years old. Jhonas Enroth is a capable backup and Matt Hackett is waiting if Miller ever does get traded.
It may be bleak, but there is some hope. As a wise old man said, “It’s always darkest before the dawn.”
I did get a question from Chris Guylas about the aforementioned Miller.
That’s my point. I do think Edmonton has a lot of pieces that a team like Buffalo may want. The Oilers are fun to watch, but need a ton of blueliners to finally have the young kids reach their potential.
It’s time for my weekly “First Star, Worst Star and Who blew up the Death Star?”
Anytime a goalie scores, it gets in Mike Smith of Phoenix gets the top honor with his empty-netter against Detroit.
John Scott. Enough said.
Who blew up the Death Star?
Tampa Bay scores a wacky own goal to give Chicago new life. The Lightning did win 6-5 in overtime.
Here are some games to watch this weekend.
New York Rangers at Detroit, 7 p.m. ET (MSG, NHLN, FS Detroit): Can the Rangers get over this funk and take a forward step?
San Jose at Montreal, 7 p.m. ET (CBC (regional), RDS, Comcast CA): The Sharks have been good, but run into Carey Price and company.
Pittsburgh at Toronto, 7 p.m. ET (CBC (regional), Root Pitt): Crosby and Malkin take the trip to the Air Canada Centre.
That’s it for this week. See you on Monday.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.