The Buffalo Sabres enter tomorrow night’s tilt against hated rival, the Boston Bruins, playing like the team that began the season at 10-5-0. This latest stretch has seen the Sabres win three out of four – losing only to the New York Rangers in a shootout – and obtaining seven out of a possible eight points.
The only problem? They can’t seem to make up any ground.
The Toronto Maple Leafs won for the third game in a row (they are 6-3-1 in their last ten), beating the Edmonton Oilers 6-3 last night, and in the process leapfrogged the Ottawa Senators into 7th place in the Eastern Conference. The victory pushes Toronto twelve points up on Buffalo, while Ottawa remains eleven points up.
If the 8th place Sens essentially keep up the same win/loss pace they’ve established thus far this season, they should finish with 92 points. For the Sabres to finish with 93 points, and theoretically grab the 8th, and final, playoff spot, they would have to finish the regular season on a 20-7-3 run.
Highly improbable, but not impossible.
Problem is, there are four teams ahead of Buffalo that want a say in all of this, too, and the Sabres aren’t the only team fighting like their season is on the line. Saturday night’s opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, who sit in 11th place in the conference and are making a huge push for that last playoff spot, have won six out of their last seven games – losing only to the Winnipeg Jets in overtime – and have picked up 13 out of a possible 14 points in that span.
Facts are facts, and the fact is this: the Sabres currently reside in 13th place in the conference. The eleven point deficit is daunting enough, but factor in that Buffalo – in their remaining final thirty games – has to play Boston four more times, the Philadelphia Flyers, Pittsburgh Penguins and Toronto twice more each, and the Vancouver Canucks, San Jose Sharks and the Rangers once each.
If the Sabres remain 8, 10, or even 12 points out once we approach the February 27th trade deadline, the time to sell is then. Keeping any of their pending unrestricted free-agents (Paul Gaustad, Brad Boyes, or Jochen Hecht – although the latter is out with a concussion) would be a misjudgment and mismanagement. If Ted Black‘s recent comments that Darcy Regier is, in fact, “doing his job”, then he will have known by then what the market for these players is. Hecht may be untradeable due to injury, while Boyes may be the same because of lack of production (three goals? REALLY?). Gaustad should be able to fetch a decent return (a mid-level prospect and/or 2nd round draft choice is my asking price).
If I’m Regier, I’m letting the rest of the league know that any and all players on my current roster not named Myers or Vanek are available for the right price. I’m doing that right now, in fact, in preparation for February 27th. I’m also seeing who has interest in Ryan Miller. A deal of that magnitude may have to wait for summer, and while I’m not saying that goaltending is a big issue with the Sabres, it’s all about moving pieces around to obtain what you need. Deal my goalie for a center, and deal another forward for a goalie. Plus, it’s never too soon to gauge interest. That doesn’t mean I’m putting all my eggs in the Jhonas Enroth basket, either. Call the Canucks and see what it might take to pry stud goalie Cory Schneider away. The kid can’t be a backup forever.
Oh, to be a fly on the wall in Darcy’s office these days!
As long as the team keeps spinning it’s wheels, the time has certainly come for acceptance and realization, and perhaps a new direction altogether.
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Tags: Boyes Brad Buffalo Buffalo Sabres Canucks Cory Cory Schneider Gaustad Jhoans Enroth Maple Leafs Myers Nhl Trade Deadline Ottawa Paul Philadelphia Flyers Pittsburgh Penguins Roy Ryan Ryan Miller Sabres Sabres Trades Senators Stafford Tampa Bay Lightning Ted Black Thomas Vanek