There’s an interesting piece over at bleacher report entitled ‘Help Wanted’ Ads for Every NHL Team Early in the 2013 Season. In this piece, columnist Erik Cotton examines the most pressing need of every NHL team thus far into the shortened 2013 season. I was looking forward to reading what he had to say about the Buffalo Sabres, and then I read these two nuggets: “This team is much more talented than its record indicates,” and “Biggest Need: To find another voice that can get the most out of the players on this roster.”
There’s no doubt this Sabres team has enough talent to be better than 6-11-1 . . . but “much more” talented? That’s a stretch. Last year, the Sabres were 17th in the NHL in goals scored, and 18th in goals against. That puts them in the bottom half of the league – not by much, granted, but it is the bottom half. They finished 39-32-11 last year, and missed the playoffs. The previous two years, they were good enough to make it into the playoffs . . . and then get knocked out in the first round each time. So, how much more talented is this team? Good enough to sneak into the playoffs if they were playing at their full potential? Maybe. Good enough to go far into the playoffs?
Uh, next question, please.
And if the roster isn’t good enough to win the Stanley Cup, then how can it be that what the Sabres need most is a new voice to get the most out of the players on this roster? Certainly, it would be nice to see them achieve their full potential – but if their potential is only making, and then quickly exiting, the playoffs, it would seem the Sabres need more than just a new voice.
I firmly believe the Sabres have a roster full of some good, and a few very good, players, but that they are still a piece or two away from completing the puzzle. My thoughts on Ryan O’Reilly having already been documented, let’s look at some other players who could potentially be brought to Buffalo if GM Darcy Regier wishes to keep his job.
Florida Panthers Center Stephen Weiss. As a soon-to-be unrestricted free agent, Weiss’s name has been tossed out there a bit, ad will be tossed out even more if Florida continues to slide away from the playoff cut. He’s not exactly lighting up the world right now – 1 goal, three asissts and a +/- of -10 this season – but he is playing for the Panthers, so a change of pace could revitalize him. He is winning 49% of his faceoffs, which is better than Cody Hodgson‘s 45.4% success rate, and he has blocked nine shots in only twelve game played, so he could find a home on Buffalo’s third or fourth line. Everyone says you need to have three or four quality lines to win, and right now Buffalo only has two at best, but I don’t view Weiss as being enough of a pick-up to help the Sabres turn this mess around.
Calgary Flames Forward Jarome Iginla. (I’d be amazed if Calgary parted ways with him, but let’s consider this scenario just in case!) I would love to see Iginla play for the Sabres, if only to be able to say
I watched him play in a Sabres jersey. He is one of my all-time favorite players, and I’m willing to bet a change of location would give Iginla enough of a spark to get two more solid seasons in before he retires. He has big-game experience, he has physical and mental toughness, and he is a legend, so he would most certainly generate excitement in the city of Buffalo and in the Sabres’ locker room. Let’s also not forget he is only one season removed from posting stats of 43-43-86, and managed to produce numbers of 32-35-67 last season for the Flames. I’m not sure Calgary will let him go, and if Buffalo goes after him they have to know they’re probably only going to get a couple productive years from this guy, but his contribution to the team (scoring, grit, locker room leadership) could pay big dividends in the short time he spent wearing the blue and gold.
Calgary Flames Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester. For those of you more concerned about the defense of the Sabres than the offense, I present to you this guy. He’s got size – 6’4″ – he blocked 118 shots last year, and rang up 69 hits. He’s also durable – dude’s played 82 regular games a season for seven seasons in a row! - and rounding out his case is the fact the he produces around 30 or more points of offense a year. He’s due for a whopping $6.8 million next year however, which would probably make most GMs rather poop their pants than open their wallets. Still, he would clearly fill a hole for a Sabres team that has given up 59 goals so far this year – second worst in the NHL – to the tune of just over three goals a game.
San Jose Sharks Defenseman Dan Boyle. Another blue-liner who would almost certainly provide
instant improvement to Buffalo’s non-existent defense. The fact that San Jose has mentioned Boyle is a bit surprising – he has scored 2 goals and notched 7 assists so far this year, has blocked 17 shots so far in 13 games played, and according to SI’s Allan Muir has been San Jose’s most effective defender more often than not - but here we are. San Jose is looking for a forward good enough to crack their top-nine in order to consider shipping Boyle out, however, so this would be a case of helping your defense by weakening an already anemic offense. And who would San Jose even consider to be a top-nine forward, outside of virtually untouchable players such as Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis? That would be no one, unless they feel really generous toward Drew Stafford. Still, Boyle is a solid defenseman who should garner some consideration.
I know there’s more options out there, readers, but I tried to focus on players who could actually help the Sabres and might not be total long shots. None of these options have made me re-think my decision that the Sabres should charge hard after Ryan O’Reilly, but what do I know? Leave me your hopes below, or follow me @theaveragedick in order to share your visions of the Sabres’ roster on Twitter!