Why? Well, it certainly has nothing to do with first place. But it does have to do with how many points the team has accumulated through six games. Or the number of points 15 different Sabres haven’t even achieved yet. Or the team’s goals per game average. Yes, Buffalo is averaging one goal per game, six games into the season.
And six games in, the team still hasn’t won one game. Unfortunately for the city of Buffalo, their hockey team is horrendous at the moment.
It wasn’t so long ago that the team was purchased by new owner Terry Pegula, who boldly claimed the team would go on to win several Stanley Cups. The Sabres haven’t qualified for the playoffs the past two years, and unless there is a turnaround of historic proportions, there’s no need to plan parade routes this year either.
This heinous start begs the question; just how much longer is Buffalo going to hold on to goalie Ryan Miller and home game captain Thomas Vanek?
The Sabres already saw some movement of key players last year. Derek Roy was traded in the 2012 offseason to the Dallas Stars, while former captain Jason Pominville was dealt to the Minnesota Wild mid-season. Other stalwarts, such as Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold were also swapped out last season. During this past summer, many were wondering when, not if, Miller and Vanek saw similar fates.
It never happened, with both players returning to the team this year. That being said, both of them have stated in no uncertain terms that they’re very aware the team is rebuilding and, while not outright demanding it, each stated they’d be OK with a trade.
If they were still mildly on the fence about it, the 0-5-1 start should help convince them its time to move on. But, when exactly will the team agree with that?
Miller and Vanek are both on the final years of their respective contracts, and Vegas odds overwhelmingly favor them choosing a new destination if they make it to unrestricted free agency without being traded. Buffalo can hardly afford to let either walk for nothing, and waiting for next Spring’s trade deadline would be ill-advised as well, lest either get hurt or see their value decline.
Miller’s value has seen a dip already over the past season or two. The Sabres would’ve received a much better return had they dealt him after their postseason appearance in 2011. At the same time, it didn’t make much sense to do so, as one could hardly have predicted such a steep decline so quickly. The team’s franchise goalie could still net some solid pieces, perhaps a young prospect and a draft pick, maybe even a top nine forward. There are always a few goalie-starved teams willing to pry a netminder loose from another club in order to boost their fortunes.
A Vanek deal, though, should bring Buffalo a much better return. He’s a consistent scoring threat, coming off a season in which he scored 41 points in just 38 games. That type of value could net the Sabres a top-six forward, prospects and even possibly a draft pick.
It all depends, though, on when the team decides to pull the trigger. It was admirable to see how things started with new coach Ron Rolston, but the Sabres instead appear to be even worse than last year. I struggle to believe they aren’t getting calls as we speak regarding Miller or Vanek’s availability.
The longer Buffalo waits, the more risk they take. Now, all that’s left to see is what happens first, a big-name trade or a Sabres victory. Such is the harsh reality for Buffalo right now.