Last season, the Buffalo Sabres frustrated their fans with their lack of offensive punch. They often struggled to score, and tried to win most games on the back of hard work and Ryan Miller's glove rather than through breakouts, power plays, and two-on-ones. The team finished 22nd in the NHL in total goals, with just 118 in 48 games.
Why did the blue and gold lack any type of offensive punch? Well, their terrible possession numbers and second-to-worst power play were the leading causes. But their financial decisions paint an ugly picture as well.
As of this writing, the Sabres are currently spending the least amount of money in the NHL on forwards. For all the complaining we do about Ville Leino and Drew Stafford's contracts, nobody spends less on their forwards than Darcy Regier and company.
Of course, they only have 11 forwards signed, and the new deal that RFA Cody Hodgson is working out and the inevitable 13th forward they call up or sign will likely increase the team's total spending to somewhere around 27th or 28th in the NHL, but that's not much of an improvement.
If you go by average salary per forward, things look a bit better, with the Sabres sitting at 22nd in the NHL, but Thomas Vanek's massive salary that could soon be off the books will change that number dramatically.
One of the reasons this number is so low is that the Sabres are committing to a franchise rebuild, and are depending on young players to make big contributions, or to grow in to the team's future stars. Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Brian Flynn, and Marcus Foligno will all be expected to keep improving and contribute in a bigger way than last season, all on the cheap.
If those players continue to improve as expected, the team can get away with the bargain bin approach up front. If they do not, however, we're likely looking at another season of bottom-10 offensive production at the FNC.
As they say in the movies, "money talks," and at the forward position, the Sabres are hoping their money speaks louder than what they've paid for.