With the Detroit Red Wings and the Pittsburgh Penguins playing in the Stanley Cup Finals there has been plenty of talk about how the teams were built. The Pittsburgh Penguins were a bad team for a long time allowing them the opportunity to draft a lot of top prospects. They also won the Sidney Crosby lottery the year following the lockout. The Detroit Red Wings have a bunch of lower round draft picks that have turned into excellent NHL players.
The Buffalo Sabres can not be compared to either team, since they didn't even make the Stanley Cup Playoffs this season but let's take a look at how the Sabres were built. I have left all the unrestricted free agents off of the list but I included the restricted free agents, assuming the Sabres will retain the rights to all of them.
- Max Afinogenov- drafted 3rd round (#69 overall)
- Henrik Tallinder- drafted 2nd round (#48 overall)
The two players with the longest tenure with the Buffalo Sabres on the current roster. If Afinogenov is traded in the off-season, it will leave Tallinder as the longest tenured player remaining on the team.
- Andrew Peters- drafted 2nd round (#34 overall)
- Ales Kotalik- drafted 6th round (#168 overall)
Are you kidding me? Peters in the second round and Kotalik in the sixth. I guess I should rethink the praise I gave the organization earlier because of the Peters pick. Peters #34 overall, Really?
- Ryan Miller- drafted 5th round (#138 overall)
The goalie is always important and the Sabres finally got their goalie in 1999. Miller played some good hockey at Michigan State, including a Hobey Baker Award , before joining the Sabres.
- Paul Gaustad- drafted 7th round (#220 overall)
Gaustad was also mentioned as a draft steal for the Sabres but overall the 2000 draft was one of the worst drafts of all time for the Sabres organization. Gaustad is another key piece to the Sabres success the past couple of seasons and his play should help Buffalo become a good team again in the future.
- Derek Roy- drafted 2nd round (#32 overall)
- Jason Pominville- drafted 2nd round (#55 overall)
- Tim Connolly- acquired via trade with Taylor Pyatt for Mike Peca
The year of 2001 is the reason the Sabres will have success in the future. Roy and Pominville were #1 & #2 in points this season for the Sabres and they are the two biggest parts of the team. If Tim Connolly could ever stay healthy, he would also be a huge contributor to the Sabres offense.
- Dan Paille- drafted 1st round (#20 overall)
- Adam Mair- acquired from L.A. for Eric Rasmussen
- Jochen Hecht- acquired from Edmonton for two 2nd round picks
There is a lot of leadership in that group. Paille would probably be the odd man out but he had a solid season in 2007-2008 and he seems to have some on ice leadership. He never seems to take a play off and is always playing physical. Mair and Hecht are both fan favorites and have both been mentioned by the fans as potential captains.
- Thomas Vanek- drafted 1st round (#5 overall)
- Clarke MacArthur- drafted 3rd round (#74 overall
- Nathan Paetsch- drafted 7th round (#202 overall)
Thomas Vanek is the Sabres best pure goal scorer. Up until this point he is the only player acquired in 2003 that has made much of a splash in the NHL. MacArthur and Paetsch have both showed flashes of brilliance but up until this point they have not been able to produce on a consistent basis.
- Drew Stafford- drafted 1st round (#13 overall)
- Andrej Sekera- drafted 3rd round (#71 overall)
- Patrick Kaleta- drafted 6th round (#176 overall)
- Mike Funk- drafted 2nd round (#43 overall)
At this point 2004 seems like a pretty good year for the Buffalo Sabres. Stafford will probably be a 20 goal scorer on a consistent basis and Sekera looks to be a fixture on the Sabres blue line. Patrick Kaleta cemented his spot in the lineup, the second half of 2007-2008 and he brings an energy level that was much needed for the Sabres. At this point Funk looks like a bust in the second round but only time will tell if he can become an NHL player.
- Toni Lydman- acquired from Calgary for a 3rd round pick
- Marc-Andre Gragnani- drafted 3rd round (#87 overall)
Lydman played well above the value of a third round pick when he came to Buffalo but his play last season was an example of why the Sabres didn't qualify for the playoffs. Lydman needs to respond this season or risk playing elsewhere next season. Gragnani is highly touted as an offensive-defenseman but he can't play defense. That prompted the Sabres to move him to Left Wing where he played a few games for the Sabres. It will interested to see what his progress is like over the next couple of seasons.
- Jaro Spacek- signed as an unrestricted free agent
- Mike Weber- drafted 2nd round (#57 overall)
Jaro Spacek was a huge disappointment in 2006 after signing a three-year deal with the Buffalo Sabres. Last season he responded by being a catalyst for the Sabres power play. Weber played great when he was forced into the Sabres lineup because of injuries, he has great potential in the future. He is probably the only Sabres defenseman that has the potential to be a strong physical force on the blue line.
- Steve Bernier- acquired from San Jose in return for Brian Campbell
Bernier has the potential to become a power forward in the NHL. He has been criticized for inconsistent play, which is the case with many young players. If he can become that type of player he will fit in nicely with the Sabres who have mostly small fast guys in their lineup.