This Deadline Sabres should “Renovate” not “Rebuild”
When the Sabres dealt veteran defenseman Jordan Leopold to the St. Louis Blues yesterday for draft picks, fans weren’t overwhelmingly surprised. It has been made quite apparent at this trade deadline that Darcy Regier and his Buffalo Sabres are sellers. Regier has said that pretty much every member of the Sabres is available as trade bait with names like Jason Pominville, Drew Stafford and even Ryan Miller crossing the lips of those who spread trade rumors.
Although many fans are excited at the prospect of overhauling a very underwhelming and seemingly apathetic team, I think it’s time we all rein it in just a little bit. I was conversing with Dan Sterlace (@dansterlace) on twitter this morning about the state of the Sabres (mainly Thomas Vanek) and I used a word that I think fits what the Sabres need to do right now: Renovate. (Hit the jump to read more!)
Sabres fans will hear the word “rebuild” thrown around a fair amount before Wednesday’s trade deadline and, to be honest, I’m not a fan of that. Rebuilding means that an organization is willing to blow up everything they’ve worked for with the hopes of starting from scratch. This is what teams like the New York Islanders, Toronto Maple Leafs and Colorado Avalanche have been in the process of for at least the past 5-8 years. This is what the Florida Panthers have spent most entire existence doing (they’ve made the playoffs only four times in nearly 20 years). This is what the Sabres have no business doing.
I do understand that the Sabres are woefully mediocre this year and were quite disappointing last year as well (not making the playoffs will do that to a team). I understand that the fans demand a successful product be put on the ice and were teased with such a product when Terry Pegula took over. It is our right as fans to hold our organization to such a high standard. It is also our right as fans to think with perspective and to put a bit of faith in our organization. It’s fine if you as a fan have no faith in Darcy Regier, he hasn’t done in his career to earn said faith. But there is a difference in disliking a GM and his decisions and wanting a team to start from scratch.
The Sabres right now are in need of a renovation. The team is like a house that looked really sleek in the 70s but could use a modern touch. Many pieces are in place for what would be a nice home, but those linoleum countertops and fluffy carpets are in desperate need of replacing. You wouldn’t knock down an entire home because the kitchen and furnishings are out of date, right? Though this analogy is really weird, there is some strength to it.
The team has pieces in place to be a successful organization. There exists great young talent in guys like Hodgson, Foligno, Ennis and Myers (when he can get his act together) and some highly touted prospects in Grigorenko, Armia (who will be able to come to North America next season), McNabb and Girgensens to name a few. Couple that with the fact that Ryan Miller is still a high caliber goaltender, Thomas Vanek is a very high quality forward and we have a ton of depth at defense and I think it gets a little scary that people want this team to be blown apart.
Also, fans should factor in the fact that this is a shortened season after all, so regardless of the fact that we are deep into the season at this point, it will always be atypical of a standard NHL season. I’ve been wary to make quick, big decisions all season because of this and will continue to be wary until this offseason, to be honest. Perhaps I’m thinking too deep into this point but I doubt it.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m excited to see what the Sabres will do at this deadline. This shortened season did the organization a favor as it illuminated all the issues that fans have been harping on for the past 4 years or so. I am still steadfast in my belief, however, that the organization need only make one big move this deadline. We don’t need to blow up the entire core to fix this team but rather just ship a few pieces of it away for a bigger, better piece (think Stafford, a prospect and maybe a high pick shipped for some pure talent). Perhaps we can get that definitive top six forward the Sabres so desperately need (and have needed for the aforementioned past four+ years or so).
There is something to be said for the team that Regier has built in his tenure as GM. Although they’ve had very moderate success, it would do the organization a grave disservice to blow the entire team apart. I’d rather spend one to two seasons renovating than five to eight seasons rebuilding. I’m a big proponent of constant progress and the team’s willingness to be so progressive marks a step in the right direction. No one knows for sure what will happen on Wednesday’s trade deadline or who will still be wearing Blue and Gold next Friday against the Senators besides Mr. Regier. Regardless of what is done at the deadline, it is my sincerest hope that the Sabres don’t blow up their entire house because they need new carpets in a few rooms.
EDIT 2:27 3/31: Check out this piece written by the aforementioned Dan Sterlace of Black, Blue & Gold. It carries similar sentiment to my post, except he uses evidence and facts and “Tiers” to back up his claims (whereas I use analogies about houses from the 70s).