WELL, DREAMERS, HOW FAR AWAY ARE WE REALLY?

I am a new writer here at Sabrenoise, but by no means am I new to the Buffalo Sabres. As a fan since the late 70′s, I have followed quite intensely the roller coaster ride that has been this franchise. I eat, sleep, live, die and burp Blue & Gold and I have not missed a Sabres game, in person or on television, in 15 years. I challenge anyone to say they are a bigger fan than me.

Welcome to my maiden post.

My best friend is a lifelong Boston Bruins fan. As you can probably imagine, he has been walking on air for a couple of days now. He isn’t old enough to remember their last Stanley Cup victory, so this is all new to him. And I can only imagine.

I remember discussing with him this year the fantastic job I though Peter Chiarelli, GM of the Bruins, had done in putting together one hell of a team. I very sincerely said that Chiarelli built this team to win, with tons of depth, and a perfect blend of skill and toughness.

I also saw a team that the Sabres are not. I saw players who were willing to go through a wall for that ultimate prize. I saw players “playing out of character”, a much used idiom in the hockey world. I saw the second coming of Theo Fleury.

So, I ask myself, and you, how far away are we really? Let’s examine, shall we?

(I have omitted UFA’s for the Sabres)

 

CENTER:

Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Rich Peverley and Gregory Campbell

VS.

Derek Roy, Paul Gaustad

 

Top to bottom, for the B’s, remind me of the centermen the Sabres had in those great years of 05-06 and 06-07. The depth on those teams forced guys like Roy and Tim Connolly to take turns playing the wing. While it may not be fair to judge the Sabres two centers against the stacked Bruins pivots, this only cements the idea that, while speed may kill, depth will absolutely bury you. Buffalo clearly needs a #1 center, and a talented 3rd line center who can pop 15-20, win some key draws and kill some penalties.

 

WINGERS:

Nathan Horton, Milan Lucic, Brad Marchand, Chris Kelly, Mark Recchi, Michael Ryder, Tyler Seguin, Shawn Thornton, Daniel Paille

VS.

Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Tyler Ennis, Brad Boyes, Nathan Gerbe, Drew Stafford, Patrick Kaleta, Jochen Hecht

 

On paper, I might give the edge to Buffalo, based on depth and talent. However, if you put Vanek, Pominville and Ennis up against Horton, Lucic and Marchand (the new Theo Fleury), it looks like boys against men. Admittedly Vanek, who takes a beating in front of the opposition’s net every single night, is one tough hombre. Yet, if you add up the skill and toughness (a deadly and perfect mix) of the Bruins’ wingers versus the Sabres wingers, in a playoff atmosphere, Boston has the edge. And a Cup.

 

DEFENSE:

Zdeno Chara, Dennis Seidenberg, Johnny Boychuk, Tomas Kaberle, Andrew Ference, Adam McQuaid

VS.

Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, M.A. Gragnani, Mike Weber, Shaone Morrisonn

 

Experience and toughness are keys here, and they are things you cannot teach. Chara and Seidenberg are grizzled vets, and can shut down (and frustrate) even the best forwards (just ask Thelma and Louise…I mean Henrik and Daniel). Myers will, mark my words, win a Norris trophy someday. He has a dimension to his game that Chara only dreams of: skating. However, Buffalo struggled mightily in it’s own zone all year. They seem to lack that one true shut down guy, and could use a warrior type who keeps the opposition honest…and in pain.

 

GOALIE:

Tim Thomas, Tuukka Rask

VS.

Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth

 

For the year he had, what else can you say about Thomas? Poor Rask hardly had a chance to man the blue paint, and for good reason. Miller had great stretches, especially when the team needed him to, but also had stretches where he was the old Ryan Miller. The one of the “weak goal at the worst time” kind. Enroth was a revelation, and had some wondering if the time was right to trade Miller. Overall, between the pipes, I call this a wash. Miller hasn’t won the big one, but if Mr. Pegula has his say, and Mr. Regier does his job, it shouldn’t be long. Unless Ryan is part of a blockbuster trade, of course!

So, how far away are we?

It would seem to me that we are 3 forwards and 1-2 defensemen, and a ton of luck, away from attaining that seemingly elusive holy grail of hockey. Mr. Chiarelli, with shrewd, gutsy trades, has put on a clinic on how to build a Stanley Cup champion in a very short amount of time.

Now Darcy, were you paying attention?

 

 

 

 

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  • Dan Sterlace

    Great post, Chris. And welcome aboard.

    I concur with your points pretty much all the way. While guys like Boyes and Gerbe could play center, they are much more potent on the wings and I’d much rather see them there. This team needs to round out their centers with an elite scoring/playmaking center for the top 2 lines and a third line center that can chip in points.

    Hecht is a good solid defensive forward. He could be that third line center, but he’s one of those guys that is A.) better on the wing and B.) better the more minutes he plays. When he’s relegated to playing fewer minutes, he has less impact.

    I’m a big advocate for giving Tim Connolly an offer of around $1.5 to $2 million. Stick him on the third line, where there’s little pressure, and take advantage of the fact that he’s probably going to net about 40 or so points. He’s a great penalty killer, and if there is an injury on the top 2 lines he can be a temporary plug-in. That being said, I have little faith this organization is going to re-sign him, mostly because of the bad taste he has left everybody with.

    • Chris Elardo

      Thanks, Dan! On the Connolly thing. If he were to re-invent himself as a defensive center, and concentrate his efforts in that role, I (and I cannot believe I am about to say this) would be okay with him re-signing at $1.5 to $2 million per. He is a damn good penalty killer, I will give him that. And, yes, by playing on the 3rd line, it may open up more for him offensively.

      On the other hand, he HAS been here a long time, and it may have run its course. I like Marty Reasoner as an option, if they go outside the organization.

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