Over halfway into the season, the Buffalo Sabres are in shambles. With their “big-move” offseason acquisitions looking more like duds by the day, their owner Terry Pegula is quickly willing to blame injuries. Too bad for Pegula, injuries don’t change your placement in the basement of the Eastern conference. Take Pittsburgh for example; despite losing Crosby, Staal, and Letang for good portions of the season, they are still geared for the playoffs. That being said, the real problems in Buffalo are poor scouting and a fear of taking responsibility.
The reason Buffalo’s season had so much hype behind it was the offseason acquisitions of Christian Ehrhoff, and Ville Leino. First and foremost, both of these players were well overpaid. But this doesn’t stem from them having lucrative agents or numbers from the prior season that weren’t worthy of these new salaries; it lies in an inability to understand how these points were acquired. Ehrhoff benefited from a power-play fueled by the Sedins, and came out looking like a 50 point D-man. As we are seeing this year, the person manning the point while playing on the Canucks top PP line is irrelevant. Edler is getting the job done just as well as Ehrhoff ever did. Leino is the exact same. Philly gave up huge chunks of their offense in exchange for a goaltender, a problem they have been trying to solve for years. But in doing so, people seem to forget the talent that was on their line up last season in Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. Not to mention a healthy Pronger, Giroux and Hartnell made Leino look like far more of a stud than he ever was.
Blaming Pegula for spending too much money isn’t fair either; he had no say in which players were purchased, he just supplied the cash. Now that they are locked into several huge contracts that are making Buffalo’s future look far more bleak than anyone pictured 4 months ago.
But, these are the players the team has and they are stuck with them, for better or worse. To make matters even more awful, a lack of responsibility has begun to bleed down through the organization. This starts with the owner and coaching staff and works through the locker room, turning every loss into a dramatic defeat, and making the remaining 30 games an intolerable cruelty for the fans. But before Buffalo can turn anything around, the entire organization has to stand up and move forward together. Right now, Buffalo is fragmented and despite adding close to 10 million in contracts since last year, they are a shell of their former selves.
Buffalo still has immense talent in their goaltending duo of Miller and Enroth and goal scoring power in Vanek and Pominville. But in today’s NHL, that isn’t enough to even make the playoffs. The Sabres are stuck with the players they have signed and their future now lies in the hands of the entire organization to take responsibility for every minute of hockey, on and off the ice.