In order to properly asses this I assumed the following requirements:
- What type of team we want to be
- Areas of natural improvement
- Draft potential
- Areas of need
- Trade opportunities (realistic ones)
Type of Team
The type of team I want to see on the ice may be completely different from you. So, that makes all the difference in the world to the other four areas. As your choices will be altered if you want to see a different product on the ice. Personally, I want to see a hard working, grinding, body checking, fast team. They may not have the star power of say a Pens team, but a hard grinding team that will win games through team scoring and pound teams through the end boards even if they lose.
Areas of Natural Improvement
These are the areas that I expect that time will improve. This is the maturity that players get as they get older, that only time can make.
There are a few players who appear to need time to mature and should be kept until such a time that it is absolutely clear that they are either with us or against us.
T. Ennis, still has lots of room for improvement, but may not be the guy to move forward with. I feel he is too small to be apart of the type of team I am proposing.
M. Grigorenko, holy crap. If this kid can get over himself and play for his teammates, he will be awesome.
C. Hodgson, I think he is showing signs of great potential, maybe a number 2 center, but lots to work with.
B. Flynn, he basically carried the team in the tough times. He seems to be a good future grit player.
M. Foligno, shows flashes of greatness. Time should get him used to his real role on this team.
K. Porter, I'm really not sure on him, but I think we need to see more of him before we can decide.
T.Myers, I think his potential is obvious. As long as he can get his head right he can grow into the role of top d-man.
C. Ruhwedel, demanding he plays now and not be in the AHL concerns me about being too cocky, but he did play well enough to keep an eye on him.
M. Pysyk, this kid seemed ready to me to step into a learning role, 3rd pairing. He did well, but could use a vet to help guide him further.
Other players in the AHL that appear to have great potential include: Girgensons, McNabb, Adam, Larsson, Catenacci, Leggio and a couple others.
I'm not sold on Armia being able to play the style of hockey I would like to see from this team. So far I haven't seen much of the others, so it's harder to judge.
With the current history of pulling off great trades, I can see Darcy trying to swing into the top 5 and keeping the 8th overall. I would assume he tells anyone who wants both the 8th and 16th for the top five pick to go "F" themselves. If I remember correctly, moving up has cost relatively little if a teams gives up their first rounder as well. That being said, I have this gut feeling that Darcy will offer a player, maybe a prospect plus the 16th pick for a top five. Thus giving him the top 5 and the 8th. (am I dreaming?? Maybe)
I assume the AV's have no interest in giving up the number one, they need a defense man and Jones is it. I can't see anyone making a crazy trade to get ahead of them. The Panthers and Lightning both could use some offence, so believe they too will follow the expected order and take MacKinnon and Drouin respectively.
In the number 4 spot the Preds are the team I feel are in the best position to make a trade with. An offer of the 16th overall and a player/prospect and they may be willing to part with the pick.My only concern is that they may not want to take on another veteran player due to the costs. So, the 16th and a second round pick may do it, but I'm not sure that would be enough.
That leaves the Hurricanes, who have a ton of offensive talent and may be willing to drop down as there isn't another defensive stud in the top 5 past Jones. They too may be willing to make a move and the cost may be nominal.
Aside from working a double trade where Darcy trades for the 5th and then turns it into the 2 or 3 pick maybe to the Lightning. I feel this is Darcy's best chance at a top 5 guy with out giving up a huge piece in Miller or Vanek.
I will go out on a limb and say I would like us to draft either MacKinnon or Drouin if we can. I would pass on Jones and Barkov at this time. We don't need another young d man and I'm not comfortable with Barkov's grit.
Areas of Need
Where to start with this one. This year we appeared to have so many holes that we couldn't possibly plug them all in one off season. But I think the glaring issues remain the same.
- A veteran d man to teach the kids. This guy would be expendable after two or three seasons. A guy who can keep the kids calm and teach them daily hard work.
- More offensive "firepower" from bigger tougher guys. The gritty power forwards that every team is looking for.
- That ever so elusive big center. Another player that will be extremely tough to get. I believe we have two in the making in double G's
This is one of the hardest areas to complete, because there are expected to be so many buy outs this summer that the entire process could be flushed. As of now I would like to see the team washed clean of some of the little guys and get built back up with some toughness and 20 plus goal scorers.
Out: Leino, Stafford, Gerbe, Scott, Pardy, Weber (personally, don't like him) These guys should be moved and replaced with grit players from various teams. A couple of veteran guys that are available could fit the bill nicely.
In: Bozak (temp), Horton (medical is an issue), Clowe, Weiss. Gonchar (may be the teacher we need)
And maybe a few guys that are over paid currently and would take a pay cut if dropped through buy outs.
That leaves the two elephants in the room. What can be attained for either of these two players remains up in the air.
Miller has a limited no move clause that restricts when he can go. I assume no where in Canada would be acceptable that takes out 6 of his 8 refusals. Maybe only 4 if he assumes teams like Vancouver and Montreal are set in goal and would have no need for his services. He wants to go West to be close to his wife (can't blame him for that), but I struggle to see where he could go. The Coyotes maybe, but cost constraints may make that impossible. Darcy has said that both Miller and Vanek will be traded for current roster players and not draft picks so we need to look at what the Sabres could get in return. Would the Yotes be wiling to give up Yandle for Miller?? Maybe. I guess we will see.
Vanek is a completely different story. I can think of a couple of teams out in Western Canada that might be willing to drop a few good players back in our lap for Vanek. Vancouver is saying they are ready for a remodeling of their team. I am intrigued by the possibility of getting a guy like Ryan Kesler from them for Vanek. Kesler's no trade doesn't kick in until July I believe, so he could be moved and give us that that big Center we are looking for. He is also locked in for the next 3 years at $5/season. So a great value for both sides.
With the draft approaching, I am sure these are some of the things the Sabres are thinking about. What do you think they should do?
As always your opinions are welcomed.