Let's start at the top. Ruff and Regier aren't going anywhere this offseason. I think that's safe to say. If Pegula and Black decided to give them a fresh slate when they took over, I'm betting they're not going to drop the axe after one season in which the owner backed them up on the injury excuse. I think fans are wasting their time talking about this to be honest. And I'm okay with them returning because....I'm used to it, I guess? Will they be here next season? Probably. But, should they be? Well, put yourselves in their shoes for a moment. If Pegula called you into his office and told you you were getting fired, would you have an argument to make? You've been given the most time out of any GM/Coach in the entire league and haven't gotten the job done. 'Nuff said.
Let me admit something right away. I'm not an avid blogger. Not that I wouldn't mind doing it each week but it seems like there's a ton of good Sabres bloggers out there already, that my opinion is usually echoed from somebody who has beaten me to it. I stick to Twitter, usually giving one-liners about the Sabres' successes and failures and whether or not we can find humor in both. In this age of social media where you can read people's opinions as soon as they have them themselves, I took a few days to let it all soak in and realized that I'm optimistic about the Buffalo Sabres...but it's starting to fail...
The Sabres got better this last offseason and not just on paper, we saw some of it in October and then again in March. But when injuries hit, this team didn't have many players stepping up. And those were the guys that were here last season. Pommers and Vanek carried the team for a good chunk but nobody expected that to be enough. There was a serious lack of secondary scoring on this team for most of the season. Miller was right when he was quoted as saying it was embarrassing that the Sabres didn't even qualify for the playoffs. Nobody ever said that spending more money would guarantee success. What I find embarrassing was that last year's roster made it and this year's didn't, that's even more alarming. First because most of it is the same and second because all of us thought this roster was better with the additions that were made. That being said, spending to the cap during the offseason and then deciding not to move money out was poor decision making for this organization, especially when the injury bug hit them. It prevented them from doing something as small as being able to call up a vet like Shaone Morrisson and as big as not being able to make a trade when they really needed to without having to move salary out to do it. Morrisson wasn't a great blue liner but it would have been a better move than Joe Finley.
On the injury excuse, well that's what it is. The only team that doesn't use it is the team that wins the Cup. Did the Sabres have an insane amount of injuries? Yep. Not every team has 300+ man games lost, but the depth wasn't there for the Sabres. I'm not just talking the guys in Rochester but the guys who should have stepped up that were already on the roster. When you look at the Sabres D on paper it looks good. When you take away Ehrhoff and Myers, its simply not good enough. It's why I'd be careful before rushing players like Tropp, Adam or McNabb into a roster spot next season. Regier should be looking to acquire NHL talent to fill the holes this offseason instead of taking the easy road and promoting from within. Some of their minor league talent is ready but shouldn't be relied upon just yet. Injuries will happen again, hopefully in the 100 man games lost range.
I planned on going to Rochester this season to see the future of the Buffalo Sabres. That road trip never happened when all I had to do was go to the FNC to see Amerks players that I was interested in. Luke Adam had a good little stretch in the NHL, so did Brayden McNabb, Paul Szczechura, Corey Tropp, Zach Kassian, and Marcus Foligno. Unfortunately, the rookies out-shined the existing players on the roster with their energy and desperation. The fact that almost every player on the roster had a career worst season is unacceptable for both the players and the coach. When that many players are unable to step up including your "core" group, there should be red flags everywhere. With Pomminville being the only consistent player through the course of the year I was left scratching my head about guys like Vanek, Stafford, Ennis, Gerbe and even Leino. Perhaps the biggest area of concern for the Sabres this season isn't down the middle, its' the wingers that can't find the net on a consistent basis.
I'm still optimistic about the organization when I think about the offseason and what has emerged out of the mess of the 11-12 campaign. We got a good look at the talent in the Sabres minor league players, some that are ready and others that are on the cusp. By the way, I don't think Marcus Foligno will play for the Amerks next year. Cody Hodgson and Tyler Ennis have given the team depth down the middle and may make a certain long-time center expendable going into the offseason. The salary cap for this team will come down more than $7 million with the exits of Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht. And the team finds itself with 2 first round picks which, if used wisely, could give back immediate results for a team in need of some offensive firepower. But is it enough for a fan base that's dying to see at least a deep playoff run? At a certain point, optimism and potential become stale, no matter how many times your fed it. Make no mistake, the honeymoon period for Terry Pegula is all but over. It's quite possible that the longer this organization goes without a major change, fans won't be holding him in such high regard. He's probably got a long way to go before that happens but ask any business man or woman, such as Pegula: What would be so hard about changing something that hasn't been successful for years?
Follow me @SabreStu on Twitter