Sabres fans have high hopes for their franchise. They’ve suffered for two years of tanking, with the fan-base split on if it is okay to root for the tank or not. Tim Murray expedited the rebuild by making bold trades in the offseason, jump starting fans opinion of the team. Some naively expected the team to do a complete 180, and see the team compete for playoffs. Their reasoning? The talent added compared to the roster last year was extremely different, and had loads more of potential. But the main thing fans forget to realize is, this is a young team, with a new head coach. Things will take a while to mesh.
But none the less, Sabres fans are starting to see what we’ve been saying here at talk.hockey for months, that the Buffalo Sabres lack the offensive talent, and can’t keep up with playoff caliber teams. The Sabres have 4 main goal scorers (Kane, Eichel, O’Reilly, Ristolainen) and other than that, the team just has fill-in forwards. Jamie McGinn and Samson Reinhart are definitely nothing to ignore or downplay, but need more consistent stat sheet contributions.
The other main reason why the Sabres are near the bottom, is the new Bench Boss. By no means am I placing blame on him, I feel he was a great hire, and will be a good fit to turn this team around, and take them from the laughing stock they were/are to a Cup Contender. This young team still doesn’t have set lines, and that makes it so much harder to build chemistry. Yes Jack Eichel can do a lot on his own, but having someone else on the line waiting there for a tap in, or one timer would be nice.
The “fill-in” forwards I mentioned above to me are, Matt Moulson (who was thought to be a perennial 20 goal scorer), Marcus Foligno, Brian Gionta, David Legwand, Tyler Ennis, Nicolas Deslauriers, Johan Larsson, and finally, the debatable Zemgus Girgensons. The team needs Foligno, Ennis, and Zemgus to evolve into solid talent, producing points on a more consistent basis. Legwand and Gionta were brought in to help show the young kids on this roster, what it takes to be a pro, and how to be a pro. Maybe Murray can ship some of these guys away at the deadline for 2016 1st round picks and go all in for this years draft. Needless to say, Marcus Foligno isn’t going to turn into the forward his older brother is, which is disappointing, as I’d love to see homegrown talent succeed on this team
Tim Murray needs to make another move to bring in a young, high upside forward, to help this team become what the city of Buffalo so desperately wants, a Cup Contender. Yes, in an ideal world, we win the lottery this year and get Auston Matthews. But the past two lottery drafts, we’ve finished in last place, and watched other franchises win the lottery. Could the third time be the charm? Getting Matthews would no doubt, put the Sabres in a scenario where 2016-2017 has a legitimate chance to be a playoff season for Buffalo. But as the past has shown, (add in the new lottery system) Buffalo needs some luck.
So lets say Murray adds top D prospect Jakob Chychrun, that still leaves the Sabres without NHL ready forwards. Yes we have a lot of prospects waiting for their chance, Justin Bailey, Nicolas Baptiste, Hudson Fasching, Connor Hurley, William Carrier to name a few. But counting on 3 or 4 of them to make the jump next year or the year after and actually contribute is not reasonable thinking.
So we are at the point where the most likely destination for 2015-2016 is near 30th place, giving Murray multiple options for the off season. Does he package those prospects and our picks to try to move up to land one of the top picks this year, if we miss out? Or does he make a surprising, but bold move and go after a young NHL forward. I’d love to see Jonathan Drouin be acquired, even if that meant giving up 3 or 4 of those prospects.
The bottom line, Murray will make this deadline/ off season interesting again for Sabres fans. There is no way he stands pat with this roster, especially the amount of talent in the system. It’s unfortunate that the Sabres will most likely finish bottom 5, but you can’t say this team isn’t more exciting than the past two seasons. This team actually stays in games longer, and put points on the board. They just lack the killer instinct to finish games off, or hold onto late leads.