The Buffalo Sabres are not making the type of waves they hoped they would be at the beginning of the season.
Sitting at the bottom of the Northeast Division with a 6-9-1 record, the Sabres have struggled to find a whole 60 minutes of solid hockey all season. In their last four games, the team is 1-3-0, with the only win thanks to a spectacular third period against the Boston Bruins on Friday night. This picture of Tyler Ennis says it all because nothing screams slump like when a player cuts off his lettuce.
Are the Sabres as bad as their record indicates? Probably not, but that doesn’t mean a thing when the losses keep piling up. The last two losses are especially hard, with a tough 2-0 loss to the Ottawa Senators and a heartbreaking 4-3 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday afternoon.
So what’s next?
It’s not exactly apparent if the Sabres are just bereft of talent or if they just need a shakeup to get the machine running on all cylinders. The more likely argument is the latter. A coaching change is unlikely at this junction given the shortened season and all worthy candidates being currently employed and mid-campaign in their respective leagues. That leaves a roster shakeup as the only option, and it doesn’t seem that juggling the lines is going to be a viable option at this point.
Given that, what options do the Sabres have?
The Ryan O’Reilly hoopla has hit a fever pitch around the league, and despite his positives, it seems unlikely that the Sabres will or will want to give up the type of package Colorado seems to be asking for.
The other name that has been thrown around a lot for the Sabres has been Calgary Flames wing Jarome Iginla. Iginla and Flames injured netminder Miikka Kiprusoff are the only remaining pieces of a Flames team that contended most years and reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2003-04. Calgary general manager Jay Feaster finally seems ready to admit that his team is less than competitive and the thought is that he will begin to move some of his older pieces. Iginla’s price won’t necessarily be cheap, but seeing he is 35 and seems to have lost a fraction of that scoring touch this season, he’d be a steal in comparison to two years ago when he notched 43 goals.
Iginla would provide another scoring threat opposite Thomas Vanek, who has been blanketed the past three or four games. Until the Sabres find another threat via trade or from within, Vanek will be unable to provide the same spark he was able to to start the season. The downside is that Iginla is signed for $7 million for this season and is an unrestricted free agent after the season ends. While the potential for Iginla serving as a shortened season rental may drive the price down a bit more, it still may be too high to justify given his age and price.
If the Sabres do make a move, look for general manager Darcy Regier to make one that no one was expecting. While the Paul Gaustad trade was telegraphed for a few weeks prior to last year’s trade deadline, Regier’s Cody Hodgson for Zack Kassian swap could not have been on anyone’s list. The Sabres will not mortgage their bright future for a piece that will help them in the extreme short-run.
With the shortened season, it is a crapshoot trying to determine who will be buyers and who will be sellers, as every team is still reasonably in the playoff hunt right now, especially if someone were to go on a bit of a tear. But expect the Sabres to make a substantial move sooner rather than later.
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