Is It Possible That The Buffalo Sabres Are – Gasp! – Trying to Lose in 2013-2014?


Controversy time!

Sort of.

Last night, as I was browsing the World Wide Web in search of hockey knowledge, I came across an article at The Sporting News entitled, Sabres, Caps Must Stop Standing Pat.  This article, written by Adam Proteau, calls out the Washington Capitals and the Buffalo Sabres for failing to do anything to improve their teams.  Early in the article, Proeatu writes

Yet with their near-total absence of action, both are making the case that the rosters that failed so spectacularly somehow deserve another chance

and he goes on to argue that the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” really only works for the team that wins the Stanley Cup.

It’s a good read, one that I feel is valid (and I have argued along those same lines, in my piece Three Reasons Why The Sabres Need to Make a Significant Trade), so you should go check it out – but that article is not necessarily what I am here to discuss today.

Rather, it is one of the comments that I read following the article that caught my eye.  I won’t quote directly or use the person’s screen name (although it is right there on the site if you really need to know), but the gist of the comment was that the Buffalo Sabres are deliberately standing pat in order to take a run at the overall number one pick in next year’s NHL Entry Draft.

Say what?

Hey: I’m no fan of Darcy Regier, but I have a hard time believing that any General Manager of a professional sports team would deliberately stack the odds against his team in order to win a high lottery pick.

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Sorry – that was too funny.  Of course I could see a General Manager taking that course of action.  The goal of every professional team is to win a championship – multiple championships, really – and if you are looking at your roster saying, “There’s no way this team is making the playoffs next year,” why not stand pat and see if a high lottery pick is in your near future?    Sure, you don’t want your franchise coming right out and saying it, but . . . wait, the Sabres ACTUALLY did come out and say that!   “It may require some suffering.”  Man, it’s all coming together now.

I have had readers comment on these forums and say that they think the Sabres should deliberately tank next year in order to take a shot at the number one draft pick, and I have gone on the record as saying I have a problem with that strategy.  NHL teams such as the Buffalo Sabres asks a lot out of its fanbase: to purchase season tickets; to purchase merchandise; to spend money at the concession stands; subscribe to NHL Center Ice or Gamecenter packages; and so on.   The fans are more than willing to do that, as long as they feel they are being given a reason to – namely, an entertaining product.  Fans expect to see a competitive team that is fun to watch night in and night out, season after season; they don’t expect to watch an organization deliberately throw an entire season in order to get better down the road.   At least I wouldn’t – I would cease and desist all support for a team if I knew they were blatantly trying to jockey for the worst record in the league.  Stanley Cup or no, there’s no way I’m giving my money to a team that is wasting a full season.   And up until yesterday, I had no reason to believe I wouldn’t shortly be ordering a new jersey, or getting ready to plan my trips to the 716 next season.

How else, though, to explain the complete lack of activity by the Buffalo Sabres this offseason?   There are three ways to rebuild a team – through the

Mar 5, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder (7) skates with the puck during the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at the Prudential Center. Tampa Bay Lightning defeat the New Jersey Devils 5-2. Mandatory Credit: Jim O

draft, through free agency, and through trades – and as of today, the Sabres have only pursued one course of action: the draft.  They took a pass on free agency – a wise move on July 5th, but nothing since? – and made one trade to bring back Tyler Myers‘ mentor, Henrik Tallinder.  That’s it.  While almost every other team in the NHL was maneuvering to strengthen itself, the Sabres are in a position to begin 2013-2014 with essentially the same team that went .500 last year.   Sure, you can argue that the Sabres are pretty high on their prospects – but you can say that for a lot of NHL teams, and they still used free agency and trades to make themselves better.  Are the Sabres really that sure of their prospects?  Or was the suffering that Darcy Regier alluded a nice way of saying, “Close your eyes; you won’t want to watch next season”?

Voting time!  I may be naive, but I’m going to give the Sabres the benefit of the doubt and vote that there is no insidious plan to play for a draft pick next year.  This is one of those 60/40 moments for me, though, because the conspiracy side of me was tempted to vote the other way!   That’s where I stand; how about you?

Will the Buffalo Sabres be deliberately playing for a draft pick during the 2013-2014 season?

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Tags: Buffalo Sabres

  • Jes

    Didn’t Ottawa throw its season to land Daigle?

    Honestly, I’d throw the next two seasons just to land McDavid and another player.

    • Richard Spalding

      No Cup for Ottawa so far!

      Interesting – you’d be willing to tell fans they should continue to spend money on the Sabres for two years because they MIGHT get a draft pick who can help them win? Isn’t that risky? And financial suicide? :)

      • Thomas Eric

        Terry will drill a well in the mean time

        • Richard Spalding

          True – if anyone can afford to lose fans for a year it’s Pegula. :-)

          • Thomas Eric

            Being a die hard fan I honestly can be okay with tanking this year and next to get two high picks I want mcdavid but I realize that here in buffalo were not that lucky

      • Jes

        I didn’t say Ottawa won the cup or it was beneficial to them. As a writer you should know more of what people are saying in there posts rather than putting words in there mouths. All I said is Ottawa threw there season to land the draft pick that landed them Daigle 1st overall in 1993. What throwing money at players sure has worked for those teams that are doing that? NYR, and TOR both teams that spend like mofo’s year after year and have nothing to show for it. The last 4 champions main casts and even secondary casts are all built from within. Few players here or there are from trades. Otherwise those championships were all built on high draft picks.

        I didn’t say they should keep spending there money. It’s there money they can spend it on whatever they want to spend it on. It’s not like it’s the law or anything.

        • Richard Spalding

          Jeez – relax. I didn’t put words in your mouth – I said Ottawa hasn’t won a Cup, so in my opinion if they did throw a season it wasn’t beneficial. Nothing that I said was meant to be inflammatory – just responding to what you wrote.

          • Jes

            Sorry Richard I misread what you may have been saying. Apologies.

  • Kevin

    I was about to chew your head off until you recanted yourself on throwing the season. Fans can think what they want, but I would like one of them to go tell Steve Ott he is supposed to throw the season and see what he says.

    • Richard Spalding

      I cannot imagine any player knowingly throws a season. However, I can imagine a franchise hanging its players out to dry in order to achieve whatever end game they have in mind. Just think Major League! :D

      • Kevin

        I have disagree with that. I will give you that fact that they may not be as aggressive as maybe they should be, but I find it hard to believe that they don’t go about trying to improve as best they can. Now the problem lies is THIER best isn’t very good.

        • Richard Spalding

          If a franchise truly believe that the best way to win a championship is to tank a season, I would not be surprised if they put the machine in neutral to achieve that goal. Like I said, I try to be optimistic and think that most teams respect their fanbase enough not to deliberately throw a season – but I bet some have, because a championship cures an awful lot of fan anger.

  • Johnrockman

    No franchise wants to lose. If they were going to y didn’t they do it this year to land mackinnon or just trade down from number 1 or 2 slot etc

    • Richard Spalding

      Trading down wasn’t that easy. As for losing last year – maybe the organization didn’t realize how bad they would be.. I don’t know – I voted “no!” :D

  • davidmuscalo

    The season hasn’t begun yet. There is still plenty of time to make trades and sign Miller and Vanek. I despise Regier, but he is not stupid enough to sabotage this year’s team to get a low draft pick. Remember, he has a one-year contract. I believe Terry is giving him enough rope to hang himself. If he screws up this coming season, I believe and hope, he will be cashiered.

    • Richard Spalding

      You lost me at “he is not stupid enough” – ha ha ha!

      • davidmuscalo


  • Doug Wilson

    Darcy should not be blamed for such outrageous thinking…he operates this way normally. If anybody can do it, he can without even trying! Now you add in the concept of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” theory and there you have it…a wonderful formula for success and winning a Stanley Cup!
    Sorry Darcy, but I couldn’t resist the pun.

  • jimbobv2

    It’s a semantical debate, but the Sabres aren’t playing for a high draft pick.

    But, Regier is building this roster to go young and that more than likely will result in the team missing the playoffs. And if they are “lucky” that will mean a top draft pick.

    But, if Regier was going all out in the tank, he’d move Miller & Vanek now for whatever he can get. But, it does appear that he’s trying to hold out for maximum value for those two players.

    Honestly, if Regier was going all out in the tank, he would have figured out a way to move Vanek and Miller along with Pominville at last year’s deadline.

    That likely would have meant picking earlier than 8th at the 2013 Draft.