2013 NHL Draft A Step Backwards for the Buffalo Sabres

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Rasmus Ristolainen poses for a photo after being introduced as the number eight overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

I wanted to believe, Sabres fans.

Seriously: in the days leading up to the draft, despite the fact that the Buffalo Sabres were clearly not interested in doing much to improve their standing in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, I felt like the Sabres were going to pick up an exciting young talent who would put fans in the seats at First Niagara Center and give those bodies reason to hope that the playoffs would soon be within reach.

How could I not feel that way?  The Sabres were picking 8th in a draft that had at least 9-10 offensive players who scouts were pretty high on, and even though I knew there was no realistic shot at the Sabres picking up Nathan MacKinnon, Jonathan Drouin, or Aleksander Barkov, I woould have been okay if the Sabres had drafted Elias Lindholm (who went earlier than expected), or Valeri Nichsuhkin (who went later than expected), or Bo Horvat, Hunter Shinkaruk, Max Domi, Curtis Lazar – get my point?

Yeah, there were some concerns that went along with each of these prospects – but when is there not?  Every prospect is a risk; some risks are simply lower than others.  Not one of the players that I listed, with the exception of Nichushkin, were so risky that anyone would have rolled their eyes had the Sabres snagged a forward with their first pick, especially given their 22nd-ranked offense last season (and 2nd-to-last ranked power play, by the way).

Yep.  I was feeling pretty optimistic when I sat down to watch the draft today.

Apparently, I must have forgotten that Darcy Regier is the General Manager of this team.

Some people may be able to forgive Regier and the Sabres for picking Rasmus Ristolainen with the 8th pick in the draft; I cannot.  Here’s why: the Sabres

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Nikita Zadorov poses for a photo as he is introduced as the number sixteen overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

need help on both ends of the ice – we all knew that heading into this afternoon.  What the Sabres also should have known was that any chance to land an impact-player on offense would be gone once the draft moved out of the top 10.  Teams looking for a role player to compliment established offenses might not mind picking up a player like Alexander Wennberk, Anthony Mantha, or Fredrik Gauthier, but the Sabres were not in the market for role players; they were in the market for a difference maker, and holding the 8th pick would have given them a legitimate chance to pick a player who might become a second- or -first-line player in just a few seasons.

Furthermore, the Sabres should have known that there still would have been some really solid defensive players there for the taking when they picked again at the 16th spot.  Nikita Zadorov, Mirco Mueller and possibly even Samuel Morin (or one of the other defensemen who might not have been pick had Ristolainen still been available after the 8th pick) would have all been drafted after the 16th pick, so had the Sabres gone offense first they still would have been able to grab a solid defensive prospect.

Darcy Regier and the Buffalo Sabres front office should have known that – isn’t that their job? – but either they didn’t do their homework, or they really are not fit to perform the duties required of their positions, because they blew a golden chance to improve their offense and doubled-down on blueliners, despite the fact they have, what, forty-seven d-men on the roster today?

Even tonight I’m trying to retain some sense of optimism that there is a master plan to improve this team offensively – maybe they are stockpiling defensemen in order to pull off a major trade in the next week? – but who am I kidding?  It’s the Buffalo Sabres, the current poster children for the phrase, “No guts, no glory.”   Young forwards were still on the board, and the Sabres leave New Jersey with their inefficient offense wholly unimproved.   For a team that claims to be in a rebuilding phase, this is akin to building a strong brick house without any mortar to support it.  Will Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov become solid, maybe even good or (God help us) great defensemen in the NHL?  They may very well do exactly that.  I don’t doubt they are talented for one second.   The two of them combined, however, cannot address the gaping holes on offense the Sabres still need to fill.  Swing and a miss, twice, Darcy.  Just about the entire Northeast Division improved their teams tonight, and by basically standing still, the Buffalo Sabres fell even farther behind.

Topics: 2013 Nhl Entry Draft, Buffalo Sabres

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  • Jes

    it wasnt that bad. i still didnt understand the mcbain trade? ya he has upside but he’s been a bust . nichuskin at 8th would have been perfect… who’s gonna score once vanek leaves? we’ve honestly just became the new florida panthers, only difference will be the sabres will have sell out crowds…

    welcome to the not so new darcy regier era….

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      I politely disagree! :D I like Ristolainen or Zadorov as picks, just not both of them. Picking a d-man with the 8th pick was an absolute waste of a good pick, in my not-so-humble opinion! Thanks for the read, btw.

      • Sabres24Seven

        How was it? the Sabres have been so bad on defense. In the pipeline we have Grigorenko, Girgensons, Larsson, Catenacci, Armia all ready to take over for Pomminville, Vanek and Stafford. Buffalo has lacked size and now with these big D-Men we will be squashing division rivials in a few years time. The forwards taken in the 2nd and 3rd rounds project to be really good support players as well. You just have to wait 3-4 years to see your return.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          For starters, when a team has not made the playoffs for four out of the past six seasons, it is hard for me to accept a 3-4 rebuilding plan. Sorry – that’s a lot to ask of your fans, if that is the mindset of the team (and it almost has to be, based on the fact that d-men usually take longer to develop and the offensive players they grabbed are 3-4 year projects). Second – yes, the Sabres have been so bad on defense – but equally bad on offense! Each of those two facets ranked 22nd in the NHL. Knowing first round picks are more likely to find jobs in the NHL, how could the Sabres not try to improve BOTH halves of their game? One thing the Sabres don’t need more of? Support players.

  • Joseph Vara

    Let`s not get goofy now!! Just maybe Armia makes the Big club, Grigorenko, Tropp back and who knows who else maybe will improve the offense. Why not look at the fact that we mostly have soft defenseman and these 2 today are far from soft. I think it was quite the haul as we need toughness on the backend, and no guarantees any of the forwards you mentioned are as ready to jump to NHL this year as Rasmus Ristolainen is supposedly.

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      When you look at the Northeast Division, and you look at today’s draft, how comfortable do you feel saying the Sabres will be competitive next year? I don’t expect to see the Sabres go from .500 to winning the cup, but Sabres had a perfect chance to improve both ends of the ice and failed, frankly. I’m stunned.

      • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

        I’m always, goofy, btw! :)

      • Joseph Vara

        Once again, no one today was going to give us guaranteed offensive output @ # 8 or 16 next year. Bet ya Rasmus Ristolainen can possibly improve our defense NEXT YEAR. If we couldn`t move up to top 4-5, then you do what they did and be extremely happy. We drated Armia, Grigorenko, Zemgus high the last 2 years and they have not yet arrived, so ?? Plus we added Johan Larsson in trade, Catanacci should be here in another year if not this coming year…..Are you comfortable with our defense ? I`m not, and like these 2 big aggressive talented guys !!

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          I’m not comfortable with either side of the ice, which is why I and most anyone who did a mock draft had the Sabres picking offense and defense in the first round. Most d-men don’t start in the NHL right away; don’t be surprised to see Rasmus wearing blue and gold in 1-2 years. Besides, the Sabres lost how many games decided by one goal last season? When you have the 22nd ranked offense AND defense, how do you not attempt to improve both?

        • Andrew

          We had a chance to move up to 5. DR passed.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Yup. Sums up Buffalo: no cajones.

          • Joseph Vara

            No cajones, yet he did last year getting Girgensons 2 spots after Grigorenko….Maybe the price was to steep ?? All in all most so called experts gave the Sabres an A or A+ for this draft…………Your just plain ole goofy……

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Dude – I have written new posts on this topic! Get with the times and check in to see what I have said since my initial reactions!!!!

      • Tim

        They aren’t planning on being better next year–it’s called rebuilding…and this being the NHL draft, the odds are very slim that anyone they took this year would make an immediate impact next year..

        your rhetoric is so far over the top you are bordering on absurd…Really? You have a problem with taking 2 potential top paring blue-liners who are, if nothing else, big and physical? You are “stunned” by this?

        Sure you can say maybe we should have taken Nischushkin or Domi at 8…or gone forward at 16 but ultimately it’s about taking the b.p.a…..if Risto and Zadarov turn out to be the b.p.a….then the draft was a win, end of story. period.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Yes – I am stunned by this, nor am I the only one – check out the poll I put up. Read some other websites where fans have commented. Heck, read some comments just in this thread! :D Realize that your opinion is yours, mine is mine, and we could both be right, or wrong. No need to go into attack mode, man! By the way – plenty of teams feel that they have players who will make an impact this year. It does happen.

      • wolfdoctor

        Richard, you act as if forwards were picked in the first round, they would be playing immediately. That is a rare occurrence.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          All I said was it does happen. And actually, it happens more often with forwards than defensemen. Everyone keeps saying Ristolainen is ready to play this year – that’s more rare than forwards playing immediately.

  • Andrew Ciaccia

    I’m kind of in a mix of both boatsI feel IF some of the offensive talent we have pans out, then yes we could have some good young scoring talent to look forward to. However, so far it looks like Vanek has checked out and that leave Ennis to do the scoring. We have too many grinding 3rd liners playing on the top 2 lines, so adding a forward that is ready to play is the smart thing. However, I look at the playoffs and I say man, buffalo would be run over physically. These defenseman are nasty and if they could help out now, that’d be awesome. I won’t say that this draft was a waste until after free agency. Seeing this is Buffalo, i shouldn’t hold my breathe

    • Kevin

      When on an average of let’s say 3yrs that these players will be joining the team, how many on the team we have now will still be here? Things could look alot different once some of these guys lace them up for the first time at FNC.

  • wolfdoctor

    The Sabres needed help everywhere. Last year they picked 2 forwards in the first round. This year they picked 2 defensemen. I’m not disappointed.

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      This year’s offensive talent – too good to pass up twice, IMO. The Sabres still would have drafted Zadorov and Robert Hagg, AND landed an offensive threat.

      • wolfdoctor

        There’s no way Regier could have known that Zadorov would be there at 16.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          They almost certainly could have predicted that Ristolainen, Zadorov, Samuel Morin, and Ryan Pulock would not have all been taken by the 16th pick. That’s my point – they were going to get a crack at a pretty good blueliner.

          • Matthew Russell

            100% agree with you Richard. After the first selection and passing on Nischushkin I was extremely frustrated. When they made the second selection a defensemen as well…I immediately shouted at the screen and Darcy and left the room while my friends who are not Sabre fans continuously pointed and laughed at me and my team with their pathetic GM in charge…just going to show many people, who are fans of many teams, agree with us as well.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Thanks for the read. We may all end up loving Ristolainen – at least, I hope that is what happens! – but our team is a collection of second-line offensive talent at best (with the exception of Vanek) trying to compete against first-line players. I thought this draft was deep enough to hit both ends in the first round; guess I was wrong! lol

          • Craig C.

            We only know one thing for sure: this column sure got people riled up!! Ha ha. Congrats, Rich: you got a ton of replies!

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Thanks, Craig! Even if 1/3 of the replies are mine. :)

            I just enjoy having these conversations – it’s why writing for this blog is so much fun!

  • John

    Domi would’ve been a good pick for this team, why is Miller, Vanek and Stafford all still on this team? When can we bring in a true playmaker and not one thats 35+ years old. Terrible weekend

  • Matt Nolan

    Rich darcy needs to go I know I was just saying a few weeks ago its pointless but we’ve gotta move forward I would have liked one d man risk nichushkin then zadorov I would have been happy even ristolainen and shinkuriak would have been good this just doesn’t sit we’ll

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      I definitely wanted one blueliner in the first round, then maybe another 1-2 later. Oh, I was so mad when the 8th pick was announced.

      • Matt Nolan

        let’s get Brian Murray former leafs gm to replace darcy

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Oh, don’t think I haven’t wished for that! The Leafs have turned their ship around; the Sabres are still a bit lost at sea .

          • Matt Nolan

            Idk where we are I feel like were lost but I also feel as if we can still compete. rolston had a winning record many people had down seasons.. but then I think that’s the eternal optimist buffalo fan speaking

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Look – the Sabres were a .500 team last year: not terrible, but not good enough to win if they had made it into the playoffs. Yes, they can compete – but adding more defense just means they are going to maintain that level of semi-competitiveness. Until they can score on a consistent basis, we’re not going to make much noise. Great defense and no offense didn’t work out so well for Nashville last year, right? :)

          • Matt Nolan

            True but were not even dead on offense if tire fyres doesn’t play as abyslmal as he had at the beggining of the season I think the sabres will be able to win games maybe even make the playoffs the sabres at least have players who can score I like our d right now and think we need some more solid defensive forwards and probably at least a scoring grit man (foligno) its like the sabres have versatile players who could fit almost any system except they can’t decide which system to follow themselves. I’m just gonna leave my status as a sabres fan in the I hope grigorenko saves Darcy’s career category.. and as to your point with Nashville I was surprised the took Seth Jones because they need offense if they get it they’ll be prime to explode also Colorado looks like they’re roster is filling up w skilli like what they’re doing they could be lethal

          • wolfdoctor

            All offense and no defense doesn’t work out very well either. How many cups has Washington won?

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Well, it got them to the playoffs, right? And again, I have argued the Sabres should have gotten one of each, not all offense. Come on, wolfdoctor – you have to at least quote me accurately! :D

  • 40plusyearsfrustration

    Well Darla did say suffering was in the future. Just did not realize he meant the next 5-10 years. So it looks as though we are drafting players to develop for other teams in 3-4 years and then the whole need to suffer thing will start over again.
    Feels like ground hogs day; Buffalo style, the AHL team for the rest of the league.

  • Dane Giannini

    I couldn’t agree more. We can’t score goals and are expecting to be better next year. How? Unless we move both Miller and Vanek for other players (including top end recently drafted ones) later this week the entire off season is a waste in my opinion. They are both walking after next season. People can believe whatever they want about the possibility of keeping Vanek but I see the chances at under 10%. Should’ve gotten something for each yesterday

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      Well, that is certainly the drum I have been banging for a while now. Sigh. We’ll see what goes down in July.

  • davidmuscalo

    I couldn’t agree more with you with respect to the another wasted draft pick by Regier. There are two possibilities to explain Regier’s most recent gaff: First, he may be trying to bribe Miller to stay in Buffalo by demonstrating that he has plans to put a defense in front of him, or Second, he is shooting for the number one pick next year by guaranteeing that the Sabres will finish last in the NHL next season.

    • Kevin

      Two things about your post I would like to address. Miller will most likley be gone before these guys get into the lineup. Also I feel he not going to stand another year of losing with the crew we have..

  • Sabres24Seven

    I disagree with you, I was disappointed with the defensive picks but in a 3 year rebuild plan that is perfect, Defenseman take longer to develop than forwards, stack the defense up now, tank next season for 1st overall. Draft your forwards next years draft and in 3 years time all these players will be NHL Ready for a Stanley Cup run. They are saying Ristolainen can be the next Lindstrom so I’m happy with that pick at 8th overall. I give Darcy a overall B- on this draft.

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      Hi! First of all, at no point do I wish a team will tank next season. I pay money to follow this franchise; I don’t want the team to deliberately stink for a year for another shot at the draft. Second, you’re not going to get a draft that is as stacked as this year’s draft every single year. Who is to say that the forwards in next year’s draft will be as good, and as plentiful? You have to jump on the opportunities when they arise. It’s just my two cents, but I feel they could have really helped BOTH sides out, but failed.

      • wolfdoctor

        Again, you are assuming that if the Sabres picked forwards in the first round they’d be playing for the Sabres immediately. Totally illogical.

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Sorry, but I never said that. I simply said this year’s crop of forwards was solid, and the Sabres should have grabbed at least one. Nowhere have I said that I assumed the forwards I discussed were locks to play in the NHL this year; I have actually argued that ALL prospects have risks, actually, so you’re wrong! :)

          • wolfdoctor

            You said, “I don’t want the team to deliberately stink for a year for another shot at the draft.” To anyone reading this he would assume that the team wouldn’t stink next year if forwards had been picked. That implies you think these forwards would be playing immediately.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            No, I was replying to the person who wrote “tank next season for first overall.” He said it first, not me, and I didn’t say in my reply “The Sabres would win had they drafted forwards.” I was saying, no fan should want their team to deliberately tank just so they can get a draft pick. All I actually said about drafting forwards was that next year’s class might not be as stocked, so why wait for next year? There’s been nothing I have written that argues the Sabres would make the playoffs next year if they had drafted a forward – I do understand the game well enough to know that is not likely. :)

          • Sabres24Seven

            Why wouldn’t I want them to tank, it worked for Pittsburgh with Crosby and Malkin.. it worked with the Blackhawks with Toews and Kane. You simply cant just buy these players, you need to tank in order to get the Stamko’s and Ovechkin’s. These players come in every draft in the first 3 spots so sometimes you have to suffer in order to reap the rewards. I know the draft next year wont be deep but there are always Stamko’s and Ovechkin type players usually 1 and 2 sometimes 1,2,3 this year was 1-6 which is rare, 2003, 2008 and this year drafts this deep happen.

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            Let me clarify: I don’t want a team’s front office to knowingly create a team that is so bad they are guaranteed to tank, I don’t want players to knowingly throw away a season, if Buffalo happens to tank because they just cannot buy a game, fine. But the integrity of the sport is ruined when a team deliberately adopts the strategy of tanking. That is where my thought process was going!

      • Joseph Vara

        Failed ??? So Compher, Hurley, Bailey, Babtiste, Possler will not help down the road ?? Remember we can`t assume any one they take @ 8 or 16 would be ready also……….All these guys have good tools/upside and were great picks where Darcy and company took them!!! That is 6 great picks in the first 69 according to most……….

  • philherz

    I think I know Darcy’s thinking….finish last next year, draft another D-Man with the 1st pick, and skate 4-5 D-Men per line the following year.

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      I like you, Phil!!!!!

    • Sabres24Seven

      Darcy in the first round went by BPA (Best Pick Available) which is what he should have done. Outside of McKinnon, Drouin and Barkov the forwards fell off from superstar to elite status. Darcy knew this, the draft was so deep because the defensemen added to those 3 offensive forwards to make the draft 6 players deep of superstar status. We got hands down two top 5 defensemen in this draft after Jones and some say Nurse but Nurse is a project. Ristolanen was a safe bet. He has already been playing against adults and he’s only 17. As a defensemen he had more points than Koivu before he was drafted in the NHL. Thats BIG.

  • Craig C.

    p.s. I, too, wanted some of those offensive prospects badly and was disappointed. One winger/center and one d-man in the first round would have satisfied me. If Vanek leaves, who is going to score goals on this team which is already goal-challenged.? My only hope now is that Rolston will turn some of these guys around.

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