Buffalo - January 22, 2015 - All-Star Weekend is finally upon us, with Zemgus Girgensons set to make the Sabres proud by being their lone representative at the festivities.
With a few days off between games, this seemed like as good a time as any to take a look back at the 47 games the team has played so far and do some reflecting.
First and foremost, I want to address the fans upset with the product on the ice this year. My initial reaction was to be understanding. The Sabres are the worst team in the league and if it weren’t for an unreal stretch in mid-November, they would be the worst team by a mile and a half. It’s hard to watch terrible hockey, no matter how bright the light at the end of the tunnel is.
Having said that, this is not only what most of us wanted but what is best for the franchise. I’ll happily take my lumps now if it means we come out on the other side in the shape that Pittsburgh, Chicago and Los Angeles are in: deep teams stocked with quality, home grown talent. The alternative to this was sticking with a core that very clearly was not going to bring a Stanley Cup to Buffalo. I’d rather be bad a few years, take a shot at some young superstars and try that way. You just don’t win championships without star players and the Sabres just didn’t have any.
Moving past that, there are maybe five guys on the current roster I would deem untouchable, though there are a few valuable pieces going forward. Girgensons, Ennis, Zadorov, Myers and Ristolainen should be the only ones Tim Murray doesn’t take phone calls about. Those are your current building blocks and the guys who will help Sam Reinhart, Connor McDavid (fingers crossed) and the rest of the youth movement when they’re ready to jump to the bigs. Everyone else should at least warrant a conversation and I’d like to see Murray stockpile a bunch of assets for this draft considering it’s supposed to be the deepest in a decade. Even if he doesn’t use those picks to select players, he’s got ammo to package them and go grab a big piece of the puzzle. Having assets gives you the flexibility to make your team better through multiple avenues and Murray is setting himself up nicely to do just that.
Lastly, I’m excited. Not for this season, obviously, but the future holds more promise than I can honestly remember it ever holding since I’ve been a fan of the franchise. The Sabres have the deepest prospect pool in the game and they haven’t even gotten to the deepest draft in a decade yet, where they already hold two other first round picks in addition to their own golden ticket pick. Murray has a clearly defined plan and he’s following through on it like he should. Most importantly, he’s putting the Sabres in a position where, if the picks pan out, they could contend for a decade. Sure, it’s taking some ugly, awful hockey to get there, but it took the same path for the teams I mentioned earlier.
It’s still a long march towards June, but the future has me holding on. Now let’s hope the Sabres can avoid the Buffalo curse and land that top pick. From that point, we’ll all need shades to even think about the future.
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