We knew the Boston Bruins were dexterous. Extremely adroit.
So good, in fact, the journeyman backup goalie plays the first of a home-and-home series. A healthy Tuukka Rask watched as Jaroslav Halak led the Big Bad Bruins to a 3-0 victory. Buffalo played the second game much closer but still came out losing in regulation 3-2. Many folks probably thought the Sabres were much closer to the top tier teams earlier this season when they got off to another strong start. Unless, of course, you were of the same mind as “Negative Stanley”.
While some Stanley disciples were waiting for reality to kick in as it did for the Phil Housley and the Sabres a year ago, I was not assuming anything. Certainly not a full-all-out– record-breaking-spiralling-out-of-control-crashing-and-burning-drop-in-the-standings like last season. Not yet. The Sabres are still hanging around in the playoff race. A bit surprising considering they have lost six of their last seven games. In addition, Jeff Skinner will be out with an injury for an estimated four to six weeks. He was just starting to get chances.
Jason Botterill really needs to make an impact move…or two. Not moves like trading away a highly productive but outspoken Ryan O’Reilly after finishing dead last after years of losing. He only went on to win the playoff MVP and the Stanley Cup. It was such an exciting time when Buffalo brought in Evander Kane and O’Reilly. Both of those players performed fine in their time in the Queen City. They just had the misfortunate of being on a Sabre team that was allergic to winning.
The repetitive excuse that trades are not really happening now, is getting old. The Sabres fanbase endeared several seasons of “The Tank”. By now, they were supposed to be in the playoffs reaping the benefits of consistently drafting high. Drafting talented young players like Rasmus Dahlin and Jack Eichel were suppose to accelerate the process. Now, though it seems the Sabres are a bit behind schedule, it’s not all general manager Jason Botterill’s fault. However, he DID hire a coach that he had to fire after just two seasons of below mediocre hockey.
He continues to claim injuries or timing slow down his efforts to execute successful trades. He shows extreme patience. However, I am not so certain that the Pegulla’s will display that sort of patience if he continues to fail at upgrading the team. Everyone expected forwards to be brought in by trade around the draft time or during the offseason. Defensive injuries prevented them from upgrading the forward position.
This year, he will most certainly be expected to make a move before the deadline. We have said that in the past. The bottom line is that the same struggles can not continue with a new coach and no additions to the roster. Refusing to make a move because you are losing and feel that you may be taken advantage of is unacceptable. Other teams make trades when it is a difficult trade time. Maybe the Sabres need to have a process and trust it.
I like Jason Botterill. He has a good background and knows the business. It was tough going from Darcy Regier, who was overvaluing his own players and far too patient at times, to Trigger-happy Tim Murray. He does not need to match one of those trends. He can be himself. That does not mean he will not eventually have to be held accountable for not winning. They need to make the playoffs. To steal shamelessly from the Bills coach, no moral victories exist after losing games. No moral victory will satisfy the Sabres fans if they miss the playoffs…again.
Make a move. Please do not pass off playing musical chairs with Rochester as upgrades. Buffalo fans are too hockey educated to fall for that charade. Those things should happen regardless if you are winning or losing. You need to give up prospects, players or draft selections to get something really decent in return. Be bold. No excuses.
My late father used to tell me when I played house league ice hockey as a child. “It does not matter if you win or lose. Until you lose.”