Buffalo Sabres: A New Offseason
The 2006-07 season was one of the best seasons in Buffalo Sabres’ franchise history. Although eliminated in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Sabres put up 113 points and grabbed the President’s Trophy as the NHL’s best team during the regular season.
The 2007-08 season was something of a disappointment for the entire Sabres’ organization.
Finishing a mere four points out of a playoff position, Buffalo fought until the bitter end. The end was still bitter, like it or not.
When the Buffalo Sabres lost co-captains Daniel Briere and Chris Drury on the first day of free-agency last year, things certainly did not look up for the future of the club.
After the Sabres, and namely Darcy Regier, refused to learn from their mistakes with Briere and Drury, the departure of All-Star Brian Campbell was inevitable. But Regier has vowed that the Sabres’ top priority in the offseason will be to sign goalie Ryan Miller and right-winger Jason Pominville.
Both Miller and Pominville have one season left on their contract, and Buffalo fans better believe Regier will begin negotiating as soon as possible to avoid a repeat of last year’s free agency fiasco.
Although they are both restricted free agents, I believe Regier needs to sign the pair immediately, because he is under pressure from both the front office and the fans.
Lindy Ruff will also play a large role in the upcoming season. Ruff made some questionable calls this past season, some of which may or may not have cost the Sabres their shot at the playoffs.
The first agenda on Ruff’s list should be to designate a permanent captain. The rotating captain showed that he did not have the faith in one player to lead his team.
A good way to keep Pominville on board for the 2009-'10 season would be to give him the “C” to start this season. If Pominville does not get the captaincy, Derek Roy would be a logical choice.
Pominville and Roy finished in the top four in league scoring for the second half of the 07-08 season. The duo only trailed MVP candidates Alexander Ovechkin and Evgeni Malkin in scoring in the second half.
The Sabres were the NHL's roller coaster in the 07-08 season. They started the season 6-10-1, then followed their subpar start by going 13-4.
The 13-4 incline was then followed with a 1-7-5 decline, which included three straight shootout losses where Ruff made some questionable shooter selections.
The Sabres began another hill in their roller coaster by going 10-2-2. But rather then continuing their ascent during the middle of the playoff rush, the Sabres got to a high point and just hovered there for the rest of the season.
Buffalo finished the season by going 9-6-3; a record that will not get a team into the playoffs when every other team is on their “A” game.
The game that seemed to doom the Sabres was a 4-3 shootout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers on February 25. After building a quick 3-0 lead, the Sabres let their guard down and allowed Philly, a team that was on a 10 game skid, to score two quick goals and get themselves right back into the game.
Philadelphia eventually tied the game late in the third and won it in a shootout.
And who scored the game-winner with the score tied in the shootout you ask? Good ol’ Danny Briere.
In a game that was essentially worth four points, the Sabres could not come through. It was games like these that cost the Sabres their shot at the Cup.
So where does that leave Buffalo for the upcoming season? They have the potential to win their division. Any team in the Northeast could end up winning that division. Signing Miller and Pominville will play a big part in the Sabres’ off-ice problems and will make the locker room a much more comfortable place.
It’s a given that Miller, Pominville, and Roy will have to have big season if the Sabres want to make the playoffs. It will also be up to the younger guys like Andrej Sekera, Drew Stafford, and Daniel Paille to step their game up to the level they’re expected to play at.
Honestly, the Sabres have the potential to be somewhere in the range of 45-47 wins for the upcoming season. But the Sabres have to forget about the past, if they want to succeed in the future.
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