Spit That Out

by Ryan

We are six days away from the NHL’s trading deadline, and very few people have a very good sense of what will happen on that day. The general sentiment is that it will be a relatively quiet deadline, as many teams are still considered to be in the playoff race and won’t be so willing to sell and throw in the towel. Brian Burke promises to be active, and the Sens have announced they will be looking to sell. That’s nowhere near the whole story, but it’s a start. But what are the Sabres doing? Buying or selling?

Last season the Sabres tried to do both, and things seem to have worked out in hindsight. Instead of a complete rebuilding mentality, Buffalo swapped Brian Campbell for picks and Steve Bernier, which laid the groundwork for Craig Rivet’s arrival the following summer. That’s classic Darcy Regier rebuilding, and the results have been fairly successful.

This season is a bit different. Buffalo has a number of expiring contracts on the roster, and with a sudden need at goaltender, what happens with this roster next week? If Miller’s timetable is still undetermined, the Sabres may even look to go there, right? Well, at least someone is asking that:

But if goaltending is the Sabres’ biggest concern, would they be willing to go after Kari Lehtonen of the Atlanta Thrashers? Chew on that one for a while.

I’m chewing, but I’m not sure I like the taste of that. As I’ve said before, I really don’t see the Sabres making a move that threatens Patrick Lalime’s spot on the roster. Darcy has proven to be a character guy countless times, and we’ve heard about how well the team gets along with Patrick all season. His favorable relationship with Miller is evident as well, and just because the goaltending position may be one of mild crisis right now doesn’t mean Regier will cut the two-year Lalime experiment short.

So what does that mean if the Sabres don’t trade for a goaltender? Are they sellers? I seriously doubt they approach the deadline as such, but that doesn’t mean they will make any moves intended to help make a run this season. If there is anything Darcy Regier is good at it is not mortgaging the future in order to suceed in the present, and that won’t happen this year.

This team isn’t a cup contender with Miller and Vanek healthy, and they won’t be one no matter what happens next Wednesday. The goal may be to make the playoffs, but I think we’ll see them struggle and fall short of that before we make a push. In fact, I think I’d prefer to see them slip than go for broke. The Sabres already have a core in place that can make things happen. Sacrificing any part of that isn’t worth a first round clash with Boston or Washington…

…right?

3 Comments

  1. twoeightnine

    You’re bipolar aren’t you? What’s the reason for wanting them to slip? To move up an extra mid-round spot or two to draft a guy who isn’t going to be read for a few year? If they didn’t go for broke two years ago they’re not going to do it this year so that should be of no worry.

    The team was trending upwards until the injuries happened. Get into the playoffs in the NHL and anything can happen, especially with Miller and Vanek back. Maybe not Cup contenders but a definite upset special. I don’t like their chances against the Caps but they have a winning record against the Bruins this year, the “overwhelming” favorites most of the year. Not to mention the extra money that even two playoff games would bring in to be spent next year.

  2. Mark

    I think it’s arguable that the core is in place for success. The Sabres have missed the playoff 4 times in the last 6, and are in danger of missing the playoffs this year.

    Regeir’s archetype for success seems to be a little flawed now, especially since the NHL is trending more towards a physical game (as opposed of the finesse systems that succeeded directly after the lockout), or some hybrid of tough/finesse. In my opinion, if the Sabres are serious about being a contender they will need to part ways with a popular player that may be a significant figure on this time. For me, the most logical choice is Pominville, but at this point the only two untouchable players are Vanek and Miller. Guastad and Stafford are 2nd tier untouchables, while the rest of the roster I’m indifferent about.

  3. Ryan

    289,

    It’s not a want, but rather a preference. The team has stated over and over again that the primary “goal” is to make the postseason, but I’d rather the team we have right now makes that push rather than a trade that doesn’t make sense in the long term. (I’m thinking goaltender here.) I agree with you, this team was making the playoffs prior to injury and they still can make the top eight the way they are. I think that’s exactly the point.

    There’s no way I’m rooting for this team to miss the playoffs, that would be stupid. Rather, I think I’d rather see that happen as a result of being conservative at the deadline as opposed to the alternative. We all have a pretty good idea of what Darcy will be doing next week, the point of the post was that I’m not asking for much more. I don’t think that’s a radical change in opinion, is it?

    Mark,

    You bring up an interesting theory about the core of this team, and while I don’t think it’s necessarily true we “need” to see a core guy go, I agree that Pominville is the most logical choice. However, my point about the “core” is that those second tier players that can play a more physical game can be brought in through trades.

    This team as the goal scoring talent to succeed and certainly has a capable goaltender, but it does have holes to fill. Toughness is definitely an issue, but I don’t think a core player has to go to make that happen. I’m also with you in regards to a lot of players on this team being expendable. There are a lot of guys I wouldn’t be crying over if their jerseys were on clearance by next Thursday.