FanPost

Why This is an Exciting Time to be a Sabre Fan

I know for many fans this anything but an exciting time to be a sabre fan. Through 33 games the Sabres have only accumulated 17 points and are on a record pace to score the least amount of goals in NHL history by a wide margin. As the season continues things don’t look to be getting any better as Steve Ott, Matt Moulson, and Ryan Miller are all trade possibilities at some point this season. So why be excited? Hockey Department With the subtraction of Darcy Regier and Ron Rolston and addition of Pat Lafontaine and Ted Nolan it’s at least a breath of fresh air for most fans. While Nolan might only last through the end of the season Lafontaine looks to be here for the long haul and seems to have to fate of the franchise in his hands going forward. At first glance he seems like he’s committed to the rebuild through the draft by comments he’s made and more importantly by his actions. One of his first moves after being named Pres ident of Hockey Operations was hiring Kevin Prendergast to the scouting department, a thirty year veteran in the game holding numerous different positions including Assistant General Manager for the Edmonton Oilers. Also the majority of Lafontaines list of General Manager candidates has a strong amateur scouting background further suggesting he’ll see this rebuild done through the draft. As the search continues for the next General Manager it’s easy to get excited at the possibilities of who may get hired. Some of the top Assistant GM’s in the league have already interviewed like Jim Benning, Jason Botterill, and Tim Murray with others like Paul Fenton publically expressing their interest in the job. Los Angeles director of amateur scouting Mike Futta is the only other known candidate at this time. While Lafontaines list may grow before a hire is made it looks like the new GM will be building his own team for the first time. In the system Maybe the most exciting reason to be a Sabre fan right now is because of the young talent they’ve already accumulated over the past couple years. Their system is deeper than it has ever been in the franchise’s history and is considered to be amongst the top 2 or 3 in the NHL. The depth along the blue line may be the best in the NHL in overall quality and quantity. Last year’s first rounder’s Ristolainen and Zadorov looking to be main stays in the line-up as soon as next year but are only the tip of the ice berg. Former first rounder Mark Pysyk is continuing to establish himself as reliable Defenseman while Brayden McNabb and Chad Ruhwedel are two other pros trying to establish themselves as NHL players. Gauthier-Leduc is another prospect at the pro level but needs to make major improvements to his game in Rochester before he gets a chance with the Sabres. The other top prospect in the system who looks to be a NHL defenseman at some point is Jake McCabe. Between Pysyk, Ristolainen, Zadorov, McCabe, McNabb, and Ruhwedel the Sabres have six defenseman who still have prospect status and have either played in the NHL or look the part to be a NHL defenseman. At forward there is some quality depth but there is a lack of quality playmakers and natural goal scorers. While Zemgus Girgensons has played remarkably well as a 19 year old while their other first round pick from that draft Mikhail Grigorenko has struggled to make the adjustment to the NHL so far. In order for Buffalo to turn their Offensive woes around in the near future Grigorenko will have to develop as well as former first round pick Joel Armia. Armia and Grigorenko are the only two players who are close to being NHL regulars, if they develop correctly, that possess the potential to be top end playmakers. Two of last year’s second draft picks Connor Hurley and Justin Bailey could be offensive dynamos down the road but both are very raw and will need a few years to develop. What the Sabres do have is secondary scoring options that can also play a strong 2 way game. Girgensons and Johan Larrson have already showed the potential to play that game this year but more players could make a similar impact in the near future. Nick Baptiste and JT Compher from last year’s draft may be a couple years away from making an impact but former third round picks Justin Kea and Daniel Catenacci could be providing help in the near future. In between the pipes Buffalo has one goalie in Matt Hackett who will need a chance in the next couple years to see if he’s a NHL caliber goalie. Behind him is a collection of late round picks that are years away from being NHL ready. Recent picks Cal Peterson and Linus Ullmark might have the highest ceiling out of all the goaltenders but are also the two furthest away from seeing NHL action. Andrej Makarov, Nathan Lieuwen, and Connor Knapp are all fighting for time in the AHL and may never get a chance at the NHL unless they make big leaps in their development. Draft Choices If you’re as big of a fan of the NHL draft and watching those players develops as I am then you can’t help but be excited about what the next two drafts hold. With a first and three seconds in each of the next two drafts and a second first coming either this year or the next from the Islanders, the Sabres are poised to have the by far the most robust system in the NHL by a wide margin. One thing that is lacking in the Sabres organization is top end talent especially at forward. With the Sabres being almost a lock for a top 2 choice in this year’s draft there is a chance that can be addressed this year with Sam Reinhardt, a center currently playing for Kootenay. If Buffalo were to pick second and not have a chance at Reinhardt they would have no choice but to take Aaron Ekblad the defenseman playing for Barrie. While reaching to take a forward like Michael DalColle, Sam Bennett, or William Nylander would be tempting passing on an exceptional talent like Ekblad would be a poor decision. While the Sabres have three defenseman in Meyers, Ristolainen, and Zadorov who could someday develop into perennial All-Stars, they won’t get far as an organization if they make a habit of passing up on top end talent. Buffalo will most likely follow up a top two choice in 2014 with another top choice in 2015 which we all hope leads to Connor McDavid. If not next year holds other top end forwards such as Jake Eichel, Dylan Strome, and Mattew Barzal who could all potentially be elite talents. Another direction the Sabres could chose to pursue with all the assets they possess is trading for a younger player. This would likely not be cheap costing some combination of draft choices and players. But with Buffalo having to add roughly twenty million dollars to even reach the cap floor before next year they need to find ways to invest their money smartly and not get locked into poor contracts with ageing veterans. So while the product on the ice might not be the most exciting thing over the next couple years the new talent being brought to the front office and organization can hopefully be at least a pleasant distraction. And hopefully a few years from now we can say the "suffering" was all worth it.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.

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