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Mike Schopp's Blog

SCHOPP: Time for hard choices

 For at least the third time this NHL season the Internet is buzzing with talk of whether the Anaheim Ducks are going to trade away a star player. This may be is the most talk about the Ducks since they arrived and named themselves after a kids movie.

 Count me among the curious. Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry and Bobby Ryan each would be appealing ideas for any team. The Sabres should be no different. At midseason the Sabres are languishing around St. Charles Place, diagnosed by sportsclubstats.com as having merely a 17.2% chance of making the 2012 playoffs. Fans are dissatisfied and, worse, bored.

 The Ducks are a lot like the Sabres. This year their record is significantly poorer but last year Anaheim, like Buffalo, had a big second half to shoot up in the playoff seedings only to be dumped in Round 1. And now this year key players on both teams appear to be sloughing off.

 Before I'd go roaming around Anaheim's gallery checking price tags, I'd want to know why these sculptures are for sale in the first place. I've got no particular argument against Getzlaf, today's rage, but I do know that he's well below the point-a-game pace he's topped four straight seasons, and that this year he's a minus-18. And how does a team trade the reigning Hart Trophy winner (Perry)? What gives?

 In my mind there are three ways the Sabres could go and two of them could work. They could package players, assuredly mostly young ones, to meet Anaheim's price for Getzlaf. This would be bold and exciting, and that means a lot right there. (Believe it or not, in some cities teams feel it necessary to do things like this to keep the fans interested. Here, I guess, well...)

 The Sabres could also instead of dealing with the Ducks, make like them. Anaheim it seems thinks it's reaching a point of no return with its core players. But aren't we as well? No playoff series wins since 2007 and with the Eastern Conference looking so top-heavy this season a Buffalo trip to Round 2 to me is a fantasy. Go trade anyone over the age of 23 and reap the benefits. Anyone. The better the player, the better the return. This would end an era of mediocrity, alleviate some cap-related concerns and arguably provide the Sabres a better look at a Cup run than the earlier-mentioned method. You may not be excited by this but I would be.

 The third option available to the Sabres is to do neither of these things. And that just won't work for me. Most seats for remaining games are already spoken-for, so I can't say the Sabres need to give fans a reason to go down to the games. What I can say though is that the Sabres need to give fans a reason to WANT to go down to the games beyond our just having already forked over our money for tickets.

 Fortune favors the bold.

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