March 5, 2013; Raleigh, NC, USA; Buffalo Sabres center Mikhail Grigorenko (25) carries the puck during the 3rd period against the Carolina Hurricanes at the PNC center. The Hurricanes defeated the Sabres 4-3. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Let the Kids Play!



As we watch our division rivals and most of the teams in the East fill their holes and improve their rosters, we ask ourselves “what in the world is Darcy Regier doing?” The Sabres have obvious holes that need to be filled, but is free agency the way to go? Players like David Clarkson, Nathan Horton, Stephen Weiss and Tyler Bozak were substantially overpaid this free agency and with such lengthy contracts, could be costly for their respective teams down the road.

As much as we would love to see Darcy pull the trigger on some top remaining UFAs, he’s done the right thing thus far by keeping quiet. The Sabres are in an obvious rebuilding mode, and have a number of prospects that are ready to make the transition to the pros. With the ideal coach in Ron Rolston to guide the future of the team, Darcy is doing the right thing by letting the kids play!

When it comes to forwards, Buffalo has no shortage of talent whatsoever. Top prospect Mikhail Grigorenko will be on the Sabres 2013-2014 squad and will hope to rebound from a disappointing rookie campaign. The upcoming season marks a fresh start for the young Russian, and a healthy Ville Leino could greatly benefit Grigorenko. 2011 first rounder Joel Armia is NHL ready. The Finnish sniper accumulated 19 goals in the Finnish Elite League and is ready to transition to North American soil. Armia should start the season in the NHL and should perform well, due to the fact that he’s been playing with men the past three seasons. The next prospect ready to make the jump is Latvian centre Zemgus Girgensons. Often compared to Ryan Callahan, Girgensons has size and grit with some scoring ability as well. Girgensons will be a perfect third liner to begin his career, and will be a player that opposing defenseman will get to know quite well. Finally, Swedish forward Johan Larsson is on the bubble to make the team. Larsson is a solid 2-way winger who will most likely begin the season in Rochester, and eventually finish the season with the Sabres.

If you take a look at the defensive prospects the Sabres have, there is again no shortage of talent. 2010 first rounder Mark Pysyk proved at the end of last year that he is NHL ready, and should be a top 5 Dman to begin the season. The Sabres drafted two defenseman in the first round of the 2013 NHL draft, and both will have a legitimate shot to make the big club. Finnish Dman Rasmus Ristolainen will have the best shot to crack the roster. The 8th overall pick has been playing with men in the Finnish Elite League, which should give him an advantage. 16th overall pick Nikita Zadorov will most likely play this season in the OHL with the London Knights, but will be given a shot to make the team out of training camp. Finally, 2012 2nd rounder Jake McCabe is still a couple years away from the NHL, but shows great promise and potential to turn into a top 4 Dman in the pros.

Two relatively young players who were not mentioned above were Corey Tropp and Brayden McNabb. Both players should make the Sabres final roster, and both add much needed toughness and grit. Tropp is coming off a serious knee injury, but can still be a solid dominant third liner in the NHL. He has some offensive potential and is definitely not afraid to drop the gloves. Tropp, barring that he can stay healthy, will have a solid season with the Sabres. Brayden McNabb is on the fringe. He may be the 7th Dman, but will most likely start the season in Rochester, and be called up if an injury or a suspension were to occur.

As painful as this recent free agent frenzy has been for Sabres fans, just look at the abundance of prospects we have. Would you rather have a veteran taking away precious ice time from a young star? Although it is still early on in the offseason, Darcy Regier has made all of the right moves. We may be in for a rough season, but the young players will get their feet wet in the NHL and gain valuable experience.

Tags: 2013 Nhl Draft Buffalo Sabres

  • Kevin

    Well done Curtis. I also feel that no moves was the right move. Fans saw players go by the free agent ticker who WERE way over paid and earned too long a contract. To me it doesn’t make sense to go out and get one of those kind of guys just to let him rot on a bad team. (just me being pessimistic)

  • Jes

    great read. I also think signing sulzer was dumb just because I think mcnabb deserves a regular spot on the sabres. other than that we are ready to go. plus of course the departures of miller and vanek. hate to get rid of vanek but he won’t be part of a rebuild and miller’s kind of slowed down since he took that hit from lucic better to et rid of them now rather than later

  • Phil

    A very well balanced article. I also concur with you, having the courage and the good hockey sense by allowing the team to develop it’s younger players and not over paying for free agents, (which could hurt the team long-term) has a logical rationale behind rebuilding a team.

    Now lets get ready for a season of pain!!

  • Limestein

    Finally a blog that sees things the way I do. I can’t believe how many people are whining about Darcy not overpaying for overrated free agents who do nothing for the long term success of the team. Let the kids play!

  • qwicwted

    Good article Curtis – You know Buffalo fans have suffered over the past few years with our “core” and it is now time for a changing of the guard. I would like to see Vanek and Miller stay, but they clearly stated their position at the trade deadline last season – both Ryan and Thomas showed their true leadership through their desire to abandon ship. I know some are critical of Darcy for not doing a trade for Ryan – but Anaheim flat out got more bang for their buck. Also why would Darcy trade for a player that has clearly stated he wants to play for Philly when his contract expires?

    Resigning Sulzer was smart – since coming over in the Gragnani trade he has been a steady, consistent d-man, actually a pleasant surprise. If anything, I question the legitimacy of Myers being a top d-man, especially based on the last two years. I’m hoping that with having Teppo as his Defensive Coordinator that he regains the form he showed the in the first two years of his NHL career – because he clearly has been “dazed and confused” out there.

  • davidmuscalo

    I have no problem with Regier not grabbing any of the over priced free agents, but I do have a problem with him not signing Miller and Vanek!

  • PaulR

    This article could be summed up as – “if we had some ham, we could have ham and eggs, that is, if we had some eggs….”

    The idea that Grigorenko will carry this team is pure fantasy. I doubt he will even contribute to any large extent. He had one goal in 25 games last season. Granted, he was a rookie, but top rookies show at least some scoring skill from the start. Average, or even above-average NHL players take years to develop, and that’s where Grigorenko will be. As for Armia or Girgensens, they are completely unknown NHL quantities. We all hope they work out, but again, odds are against it.

    I knew this article was a pipe-dream when he mentioned Ville Leino helping anyone!

    The Sabres will be an extremely offensively-challened team in the next season. They will need their defense and goalie to be top-notch, because they will be spending A LOT of time in their own zone. Expect them to finish among the bottom 4 teams in the league.

  • Rich P

    Are team left miller in the dust last year. Are D sucked!i hate to say it but i would like to keep miller trade vanek. Vanek plays hard when he wants to. Looks like he just hangs out during the hes hurt all the time.darcy get smart play are young guys we got over the past couple of years we got talent.look at what other teams did with thier young players. They wont get better playing in the nhl if they dont ever play!!!