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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