Let's start by saying no fan wants a lockout. Hockey is my passion and the thought of another one when the memory of 2004-05 was starting to fade is stinging.
But instead of a players versus owners rant that you've read a million times the past month, let's talk about the silver linings of a lockout for the Buffalo Sabres.
1. Pressure Off of Lindy and Darcy
The Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier debates will always rage on in Buffalo no matter what the situation is. However, a lockout may be exactly what they need coming off of a disappointing season, and what some would say was a disappointing offseason.
This is not an argument for or against Lindy and Darcy (I've given my opinion on that debate a few weeks ago.) This is just to say that it's not a bad thing for the Sabres to have the fans' eyes turn away from the coach and general manager and instead, look toward the actual hockey being played.
With fans' hearts clamoring for hockey, very few will be concerned with Lindy's "lost voice" and Darcy's apparent unwillingness to make the "big splash." Instead, fans will be elated to see players like Thomas Vanek and Tyler Myers suit up again to play some hockey. The simplicity of there being hockey again should pacify most fans for at least a few months.
In that time, Lindy and Darcy will have the latitude to make this team what it was the two years after the last lockout, and not have the scathing eye of the Buffalo hockey fan focused on them. It may lead to a few surprises, including that "big move" everyone has been begging for since Danny Briere and Chris Drury left in 2007.
They did a pretty good job out of the last lockout, and although those were different circumstances with the rule changes, the time off could be beneficial for both.
2. More Time for the New Additions to Acclimate to Buffalo
This may seem like a novel to consider a positive, but it should make sense when you consider the whirlwind process that is switching teams in the NHL.
Consider Cody Hodgson last season. He was taken completely by surprise at the trade deadline, coming over from Vancouver and joining the Sabres during the middle of a West coast road trip. He didn't even see Buffalo for over a week, playing four games on the road to begin his Buffalo career. Nevermind the fact that he did not even practice with the team until they returned to Buffalo to play Carolina in early March. Only seven of his 20 games with the Sabres were played at the First Niagara Center.
If anyone thinks that shouldn't or doesn't make a difference they are not considering the fact that changing teams, expected or unexpected, is a tumultuous process and the level of familiarity not only with the hockey aspects of the move, but the living aspects as well, can have a decided impact on the on-ice performance of a player.
As with the last lockout, the players will likely skate together in the Buffalo area. This will allow players like Hodgson, Steve Ott, John Scott, Alex Sulzer and Kevin Porter time to get accustomed to the Buffalo way of life.
Allowing those guys that time could make them even more comfortable on the ice and lead to an excellent result in the standings.
3. Allows the Younger Players to Gain More Experience Before Making the Jump
Despite the additions of a few veterans, the Sabres are a younger team. Players like Myers, Brayden McNabb, Tyler Ennis, Marcus Foligno and TJ Brennan are the future of this team. All of those players, aside from Myers, have the ability to play in the AHL as the owners and players figure things out.
First round draft picks Mikhail Grigorenko and Zemgus Girgensons have other options beyond the Sabres as well. Grigorenko will play either in the QMJHL with the Quebec Remparts where he spent last year, or head to the KHL. For those worried about Grigorenko headed to the KHL, you should not be. He will (possibly) be joining the likes of Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Pavel Datsyuk and Ilya Kovalchuk, all of whom will be back stateside as soon as the dotted line is signed on the new CBA. That means he can go play at a higher level than the QMJHL can offer, which is a huge plus for the Sabres, given he cannot play in the AHL under the current rules.
Girgensons may play in the AHL, and will likely get plenty of ice while down there.
Foligno, Corey Tropp, Porter, McNabb, Brennan, Mark Pysyk and Jerome Gauthier-Leduc are other big names in the Sabres system that will likely suit up for Rochester in the AHL. They'll be lining up against the top young talent in the NHL who are also getting their ice time in while the league is on hiatus.
Other players may also have the option of playing in other leagues, but the veterans are pretty well suited for this kind of break. The youngsters are the ones that can suffer, but with all the options for them, it will allow them to get more experience and hopefully allow them to come into training camp (whenever that may be) and be more suited to claim a roster spot with the Sabres.