I want to get something out of the way right away. Suffering? Really? I know how it sounds in the building and certainly on the radio, but we are not suffering nor will we be if our hockey team is even worse than they've been recently. Suffering, generally speaking and obviously in my opinion, is caused by things that are far more important than soft goals against, an impotent power play, and an inability to get the puck out of your own zone. There, now, where were we?
Oh yeah, what's the plan with the Sabres? A guy called us and asked that very question the other day and I'm not sure there is an easy answer. If there is, I don't think I know it. If you do, feel free to enlighten me.
At the annoying end of the season news conference where Darcy Regier used the word suffering, the Sabres GM also talked about how the rebuilding process really started when they traded away Paul Gaustad at the deadline in 2012. Regier has also made frequent references to rebuilding through the draft, extending timelines for championship expectations, and acquiring great players. Thus the suffering comment.
The takeaway on Regier's commentary is not difficult to identify. The only variable is how far you're willing to go in interpreting it. He certainly is telling you they're rebuilding. I think he's telling you they'll probably be bad, in part because the trades of Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek are quite likely. Regier also might be telling you that the Sabres want to be bad so that they can get a better draft pick and have a better look at acquiring a great player through the draft.
Back to the rebuilding started when they traded Gaustad thing. Two words. Come on. I know it was a good trade, but to use it as some evidence of some long range rebuilding vision is ridiculous. During the summer that followed the Sabres chased Zach Parise, Ryan Suter and Shane Doan in free agency and traded for 30 year old Steve Ott. Does that strike you as team that has realized it needs to rebuild by trading it's flawed core? Come on.
Does a a team that has realized it's rebuilding bring back Jochen Hecht? Even as this shortened season was unfolding, would a rebuilding team feel the need to fire the coach to try and jump start the season? Why are Vanek and Miller still here? Why not trade them last summer if you knew you were rebuilding?
None of it adds up. That doesn't change where they are now, but trying to claim this was the plan all along was not a good play by Regier. Sure, they need to rebuild now. Big contract star players with deals running out who are unlikely to sign up for more of the same make that necessary, not trading Paul Gaustad 15 months ago.
So back to what the plan is. Regier sure sounds like he's doing everything he can to lower expectations. It was at least interesting to me that Ron Rolston, now the permanent head coach, said he thought his team would have a playoff roster and should contend for a spot. That sounds at odds with what Regier has said, or maybe just with how he sounds to us.
The temptation to throw Rolston out as an uninspired choice is high, if for no other reason than our being fatigued by the man who chose him for the job. I have to tell you, I liked the idea of Rolston on paper when he got the interim job and still think he fits well with what it seems the Sabres are doing. His approach with young players is the key. Developing Mikhail Grigorenko is vital and may take a patient measured touch. Tapping into Tyler Myers and helping him to become one of the best defenseman in the league may sound like climbing Everest at this point, but it needs to happen. I think there is reason for optimism about Rolston on these two fronts.
Make no mistake though, this thing is kind of messed up. The coach will try to make the players as good as they can be. There will be NHL players here, with or without Miller and Vanek. If Rolston does a really good job, does it not seem as though that will screw up Regier's plan?
I do believe one part of Regier's plan has already worked, assuming he's trying to lower expectations.
Expectations are low, so you know, good job I guess.