For the first time since what, the last week of January, the Buffalo Sabres organization begins a week with a shred of hope: keep winning games, and the playoffs – yes, the playoffs! – could very well be coming to Buffalo, New York, this season.
People are going to be quick to tell me to temper my expectations – one Sabre Noise writer informed me this past Saturday that the Sabres’ chance of making the playoffs stands at 4%, and he wrote that with such conviction I believe him, without having a freaking clue as to how anyone decided upon that number – but I’m already well aware of how difficult making the playoffs is going to be in this shortened season. Hell, the Sabres went from being tenth in the Eastern Conference to being twelfth, in just one evening. I try to keep my optimism from running wild, but nothing I am writing here is based on optimism; instead, it is based on fact. If the Sabres keep winning, the playoffs will be well-within reach, end of story. The players could not possibly have a clearer path laid out for them.
The path that the Sabres management must choose to follow, however, is far less clear. For example, should GM Darcy Regier live in the now and attempt to make minor adjustments to his team in order to better prepare them for the rest of the regular season, and possibly the playoffs, too? Or does he look at his roster and decide that a team that barely makes the playoffs isn’t good enough and decide to hold a firesale before the April 3rd trade deadline? Maybe he tries to straddle both paths? Or maybe, just maybe, he sits in his office, reads a nice, long book, and decides not to do a damn thing until the off season?
If the decision was mine to make, I would be looking to move a few players who clearly are not helping the team win this year (Drew Stafford and Jordan Leopold, to name a few) and bring in a player or two who would hopefully fill a hole. As nice as this little winning streak is, there is no doubt that the Sabres are going to require more scoring to win games late in the season, so picking up a player like Michael Cammalleri, who is averaging nearly a point per game and who is referred to as a “proven goal-score that can play both wing and center” at My NHL Trade Rumors, would be high on my “Must Do” list. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t consider rebuilding the team come the offseason, but if I’m the GM of a team that is only two points removed from a playoff spot, my in-season goal: help the team win, now.
Clearly, however, I am a salmon swimming upstream, because most of the sources I am reading are focusing more on who the Sabres need to get rid of, and not who they need to acquire. On Sunday, for example, My NHL Trade Rumors wrote that the Buffalo Sabres are looking to move Jason Pominville. Their source? Bruce Garrioch of the Ottawa Sun, who claims that he has heard the the Sabres do, indeed, wish to trade their captain. I would be okay with moving someone like Pominville, but only if the Sabres were looking to bring someone in who could improve the team now. We all know that Pominville, Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek will see their contracts expire at the end of next season, so Regier may be shopping his best players now to see if he can maximize their worth while they are still healthy and under contract. Trading a player who could help your team while it is fighting for their playoff lives, and getting only future draft picks in return, however, is an insult to your fan base, and does not help an organization build that “culture of winning” that I wrote about a while back. Telling everyone – your players, your fans, the media – that you are okay with “playing for next year” is great . . . when the playoffs are nowhere in sight. Clearing house when you are this close? I just don’t get it, but it seems like it’s the direction Regier is leaning toward.
Of course, there is always a third option: that Regier is content to stand by and let the rest of the season play out. Sure, he’s making some inquiries, but mostly those calls are just to get a feel for what to expect once the offseason rolls around. I’m not sure which approach I am more appalled by: the “Shop my best players” now approach, or the “Sit back and do nothing” one. Obviously, as nice as it is to see the Sabres within two points of the playoffs, there are clearly areas of deficiency on this team, so doing nothing to address those implies that the Sabres organization either doesn’t care that the team is incomplete, or is actually unable to assess the needs of the team. Either of those two scenarios is terrifying.
Only time will tell whether the Sabres become buyers, sellers, or simply uninterested bystanders watching successful franchises pass them by. I just hope it’s not TOO much time – there is still a season going on, you know!
You know where I stand; now tell me what you would do under these circumstances! Leave your comments below, or hit me up @theamazingMrS.