What Went Wrong With the Buffalo Sabres?
The Buffalo Sabres 2008-2009 NHL season came to a disappointing end as for the second straight year the Sabres closed out the NHL season without earning a berth in the NHL's Stanley Cup Finals, making them the first team in league history to win the Presidents Trophy, then miss the playoffs the next two seasons.
The word that could be said the most about the Buffalo Sabres season was inconsistency. The team was never able to identify themselves, playing multiple brands of hockey many different nights.
Buffalo faces an off-season with many players' contracts expiring.
Among that group is Maxin Afinogenov, who said at locker room clean out day, he thinks he needs a change after 10 years playing in Buffalo.
Leading scoring defenseman Jaroslav Spacek, who finished the season with a career-high 45 points, is set to become a free agent this off-season.
Dominic Moore, who was traded to Buffalo from Toronto at the deadline, had a disappointing end to his stay in Buffalo, amassing a whopping four points.
Drew Stafford, who had a career-high 45 points, is an RFA at the end of this season, and could attract other teams being only 23 years old with a ton of potential.
Andrej Sekera, Mikael Tellqvist, Patrick Kaleta, and Clarke MacArthur, along with 2007 AHL All-Star MVP Mark Mancari are among the others who have no contracts coming into the 2009-2010 NHL Season.
First thing I would do if I was in the Sabres Hockey Department is step back and look at the roster, games, and say "What went wrong? What did we lack?"
Not pretty goal scorers who look to make the cute pass, but players like Ryan Kesler, Scottie Hartnell, Mike Knuble and Kevin Bieksa, who are in your face, hitting anything that moves, and that is something this Buffalo team lacks severely.
Long ago was the days the Buffalo Sabres came flying out of the lockout, skating circles around the slower, bigger teams.
In this NHL, teams need to have speed, which Buffalo does have, but you also need strong defense, and puck-carriers on the back end who can make the outlet pass. Buffalo doesn't have any of that.
Another situation that could arise is the goaltending issue. Ryan Miller turned in another All-Star season despite the injury, all thanks to Scott Gomez. Behind him, it was a mess.
Lalime played well in Miller's absence, but when he had to come in every 11th game, he was brutal. At the deadline, Buffalo acquired Mikael Tellqvist, who, on the other hand, played phenomenally when he came in.
The problem is Lalime is signed on for next year, but had a mysterious hip injury at the end of the season. Some wonder if it could be career-ending. Buffalo would be smart to buy out his contract and sign Tellqvist.
Buffalo also got little play out of their big money players. Jochen Hecht, who is making $4 million a year, had a terrible year. Known for his two-way hockey, Hecht made minimal effort on back checks and in the corners. He failed to create any offense, and was very inconsistent.
Fan-favorite Jason Pominville, who is set to earn $5 million, had a monumental drop off year. Pominville finished this season with 66 points, 14 points less from the previous year.
Perhaps the most disturbing stat on Pominville's resume is his -4 rating. Pominville had a +25, and +16 in his previous two years before this season. A negative stat, for No. 29, was he led the team in shots. To the casual hockey fan, that does not sound like a bad stat. But to the people that watched it closely, many times Pominville would take his team out of a scoring situation with a simple slap-shot into the goaltender's body, without looking to create any scoring opportunity.
Buffalo's back-end was hardly a defense at all. They failed to give any protection to Ryan Miller whatsoever. Chris Butler stood out amongst the group putting up a stellar rookie season.
Look for Buffalo to make changes, possibly trading Henrik Tallinder, along with other moves, to get more of the young guys, Mike Weber, Chris Butler, and prospect T.J. Brennan some time in Buffalo next year.
They have a stud waiting in the wings, 6-foot-7 Tyler Myers, who displayed terrific athleticism in the World Juniors this past year in Ottawa.
This team has the talent to win games. They displayed they don't have the grit or determination, and that is what needs to be looked at the most.
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