The Buffalo Sabres took down the Pittsburgh Penguins with a solid all around game, winning 4-3. The Sabres have now won two games in a row, taking down the second- and fourth-best teams in the Eastern Conference in back to back games.
In a time in which a Sabres fan like me should be happy, I run into a huge problem.
What do you do with Russian speedster Maxim Afinogenov?
Now before I begin, I do not share the same views of most Sabres fans (or at least on this topic). I have personally liked the game of Afinogenov. He is a play maker who can either come out taking shots and setting up plays like clock work or he could come out and turn the puck over time and time again. I guess I have just learned to deal with it, what most Sabres fans do not do.
However, no matter what my personal view of Afinogenov is, he will not be a Sabre at the end of this season.
Max was benched for two straight games as a healthy scratch a few days ago and he told reporters that Head Coach Lindy Ruff never spoke to him about it. If a head coach does not even make contact with one of his players, what is that telling you about their relationship?
Not only doest the benching come in as a factor, but it really does make sense for both sides. Afinogenov is most likely not very happy with his role on the third line in Buffalo. He probably wants to go elsewhere to see if he can get on one of the two scoring lines, which I believe he can do.
The Sabres on the other hand have two many forwards on their roster to get everyone in the game. Injuries to center Tim Connolly and winger Ales Kotalik has given Max a little bit of wiggle room but even with the two out, he was still benched. Now with Kotalik returning in tonight’s game against Montreal, his time with the Sabres might be getting shorter and shorter.
Not to mention that enforcer Andrew Peters and rookie Mark Mancari still do not have a full time spot. Peters will dress as needed, while Mancari is fitting to stay with the pro team.
Since being recalled the Portland Pirates, Mancari has played extremely well for a player with fewer than 10 games of experience in his young career.
Through the 4 games he has been up, Mancari has play a physical game using his big frame (6’3”, 225 lbs.) to muscle opponents off the puck and throwing checks, something that the team could really use. Mancari has also showed he can score too, netting a goal to go along with an assist in his current stay.
And I still haven’t brought up the other top prospects in Portland. Center Nathan Gerbe and winger Tim Kennedy are both averaging over a point per game as they light up the AHL and are chopping at the bit to get up in the big league.
As much as I would like to see it all work out, it is time for a change.
The longest tenured Sabre, Afinogenov is only signed through the end of the year and will not resign again with his current team.
Afinogenov played one of the best games of the season and in recent memory, against the Penguins but that is not his consistent level of play. If he played like that every night then there is no reason why Max couldn’t find a way to stay, but he doesn’t. He can be very streaky at times and he still has troubling finishing.
The Sabres really do need to cut their ties with Max and move on. Their only move is to trade him for a draft pick.
Some teams out there with a struggling offense will look to the 29 year old winger to try to give them a boost. It is sad for him, but Buffalo just doesn’t need him anymore.
A change is in place not only for Max but for a Sabres team looking to be competitive for at least the near future. Max is no longer a part of that blue plan.