The fans of the Buffalo Sabres have clamored for one thing since July 1, 2007: A number one center.
The departures of Chris Drury and Danny Briere were crippling to say the least, and the need for one or both of them has not ceased since that day.
But a new need is sneaking up on the Sabres that most fans are not paying attention to.
Ryan Miller is 32. Jhonas Enroth is solid, but nowhere near the world class talent Miller was (and can be).
Goaltending is the Sabres’ silent killer.
It’s a hard pill to swallow given the talent Buffalo fans have been privy to for decades. Grant Fuhr, Dominic Hasek and Marty Biron preceded Miller, and the expectation is that Buffalo will always have an elite presence between the pipes.
But that may soon be coming to an end if something is not done quickly.
Miller has (pray to the CBA gods) two seasons left on his contract. He certainly won’t be making $6.25 million his next contract, but he will not come cheap. Is Enroth ready for this to be his team? Beyond that, who is going to be our number two goalie?
David Leggio and unrestricted free agent Drew MacIntyre played between the pipes in Rochester last year and certainly did not turn too many heads. Nathan Lieuwin finished up two solid seasons as the starter for the Kootenay Ice of the Western Hockey League, but is unproven haven never played a game in the AHL. Same goes for Miami of Ohio graduate Connor Knapp.
So, with that in mind, do the Sabres need to be working the phones for a number one center when they’re an injury away from the Enroth-Leggio era? The preview was last season after Miller was trucked by Milan Lucic, and, honestly, it wasn’t good.
The center position looks a lot better since the end of June with Darcy Regier’s focus on pivots during this year’s draft. While Mikhail Grigorenko may be the only one to make the team this season, Zemgus Girgensons has a lot of potential as well, and will likely see time with the big club at the latest.
Tyler Ennis and Cody Hodgson are young and talented, both having the potential to reach that “number one” summit.
Basically, what it comes down to is there is a bright future foreseeable at the center position, but the goaltending depth looks much more bleak. The answer is certainly not a Roberto Luongo (too old) or a Johnathan Bernier (too costly to acquire), but the Sabres should be looking to the future between the pipes with some anxiety attached.