The Sabres lineup has not seen many moves since the beginning of the offseason. The loss of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman didn’t surprise many fans. The addition of Jordan Leopold and the expected call up of Mike Weber will replace those openings.
The Sabres have depth at forward, but the fact of whether or not they have enough scoring power remains the question. The team is fairly intact from last season and last year it was good enough to win the division and come in third in the Eastern Conference, while totaling 235 goals. However, the 235 goals is the lowest Buffalo has seen in recent years.
At the moment, the Sabres top six forwards look are Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, Tim Connolly, Drew Stafford, and Jochen Hecht. Lindy Ruff’s teams have always relied on a good two-way forwards, solid defense, and goaltending. The Sabres leader in points last season was Derek Roy who finished with 26 goals, 43 assists, and 69 points.
The leading goal scorer was Thomas Vanek who recorded 28 goals in 71 games, which was significantly lower than his average over the three seasons prior where he averaged over 39 goals a season. Buffalo saw three players record over 60 points and Vanek just outside the 60 mark.
Does this mean that the Sabres need to acquire a better goal scorer or someone who can help Vanek get the puck more?…YES. Connolly and Roy disappeared with most of the Sabres when goals were needed. Vanek, Mike Grier, and Tyler Ennis were the best players in the playoff series against the Bruins. The answer may very well rely in the spark that Tyler Ennis can bring to the lineup if he plays on a regular basis.
All Sabres fans ooh’ed and ahh’ed at the speed and talent that Ennis brought at the end of the regular season and during the playoffs. However, Ennis was not enough to help the slumping power play during the playoffs.
Clearly, the Sabres could use a top six forward to produce more goals or could use a power play quarterback on the point. This year the primary target of teams is defense. The best talent that was available on the market were solid defensemen. That leaves the Sabres to look to acquiring a top six forward or some type of spark in goal scoring through a trade.
Names like Marc Savard, Alex Semin, Patrick Sharp, Jamie Langenbrunner, Stephen Weiss, and Brad Richards have been thrown around with rumors, but with not much support to back them up. The Sabres can make a move if they wanted to with the $8 million in cap room still remaining and some tremendous young talent in the fold. The question is if the Sabres give up a guy like Nathan Gerbe and a first round pick, is it worth what your receiving in return?
Darcy Regier has always had the state of mind to build from within, better your team with trades, and has never made a huge splash in free agency. This is not the worst way to do business in the NHL even though teams like the Flyers and Rangers choose differently. The Sabres have been successful to make the playoffs somewhat consistently, but have not won a Stanley Cup now entering their 40th season in the league.
The city is becoming restless as they want to win now. Darcy may have to give up more than he wants, but to bring in a guy who can spark your first line and get Thomas Vanek going would be ideal. The team as it is now is a playoff team without a question, but it needs some work done to it in order to become a Stanley Cup contender.