As we reach the conclusion of the 2013 NHL regular season, there are still many questions that need to be answered for the Buffalo Sabres. To say the least, this was a season of ups and downs. A season with lots of hype and a promising start to be followed by skids of inconsistent below average play that eventually led to the firing of long time head coach Lindy Ruff. Although the Sabres were unable to squeeze into the final playoff spot, there is still reason to be optimistic heading into the future. GM Darcy Regier will have many difficult questions to answer as we begin the offseason.
The first question that must be answered is quite obvious. Is Ron Rolston the long term head coach for the Buffalo Sabres? In my opinion, the answer to this is pretty easy. Yes. Ron Rolston has done a fine job behind the bench with the blue and gold, compiling a 15-11-5 record. He did an exceptionally good job at developing young players, and brought back some life into what seemed to be a dead season. With the abundance of young talent the Sabres have in their organization, Rolston would be the ideal candidate for the Sabres long term head coach position.
The Buffalo Sabres only have a few players who are not under contract come next season. John Scott, Alexander Sulzer and Adam Pardy make up this list. It is a no brainer that Scott and Sulzer are resigned. Scott adds much needed size and toughness, while Sulzer add depth and some scoring to the blue line. It wouldn’t bother me not seeing Pardy be brought back. I think the Sabres will ink the veteran D man to a two way deal, that can allow the Sabres to call him up if injuries kick in.
The next big decision that Darcy will have to make, is whether to buy out Finnish forward Ville Leino, who has a cap hit of 4.5 million. Leino has never been fully healthy in his two years with the team, although he had showed promise in his 8 games this year. Curiously though, it is speculated the Sabres will consider buying out Leino, I am all for keeping the winger, and giving him every opportunity to succeed.
Come draft time, there will be lots of trade talk involving Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller. Both superstars will become UFAs after the following season. Regier will be fielding lots of calls for Vanek and Miller come draft time. Personally, I feel that Vanek must be locked up to a long term deal. Despite some midseason slumps, Vanek is one of the league’s most dynamic goal scorers. He’s put up 40 goals in the past, and is the Sabres franchise player. On the other hand, there is no doubt that Ryan Miller is still an elite goalie. I would keep Miller as the starting goalie to begin the year; however, I would be fielding offers at all times, and be willing to trade the veteran goalie.
Finally, Regier must decide what to do with the RFAs. Obviously, Cody Hodgson will be resigned to a new deal. Brian Flynn should be brought back for just over 1 million per year. Mike Weber provides toughness and stability on the back end and should be resigned. Jhonas Enroth has proven he can be more than a backup, and should be inked to a deal. Luke Adam is a big question in my opinion. Adam is a slow, lazy player who never seems to utilize his size. Although he has never had a full season in the NHL, I’m ready to part ways with the former second rounder, and give someone more deserving a chance.
Darcy Regier will definitely have his work cut out for him this offseason. Major decisions will be made that Regier cannot afford to miss on. Despite missing the playoffs the past two seasons, Sabres fans have been fairly patent, and Regier’s time could be running out.