How expeditiously things change, The Buffalo weather? Well certainly. The Sabres place in the standings in the hockey macrocosm. Boom….certainly once again. Six points out with games in hand prior to the dismal west coast trip where the Sabres did exactly what we said they could not do. They lost every game on the road trip. We suggested if they couldn’t power through winning all four games, they needed to win two and then hopefully grab points in two losses in OT or a shootout. They returned home behind by double at a 12 point deficit. The attitude was morbid and disappointing. On another hand, relieved to be home. Well, that luxury fuzzy feeling of home ice failed to materialize into anything except a 4-2 loss to the Penguins of Pittsburgh. The blue and gold play this evening against the other team from the Keystone State, the Flyers.
Buffalo has assigned goaltender Jonas Johansson back to Rochester as Ullmark has been practicing with the team and returns to the lineup to backup Hutton against Philly.
I’m not quite certain where the mindset is for a team that started the season on top of the world able to do no wrong. Then they started losing in bunches. Then they had an amazing February that put them back on playoff radar.
Once again they are way on the outside of the playoff race looking in.
Botterill is very comfortable with the defense that he has assembled. He clearly knows they need significant help upfront. That has been the case since O’Reilly was given his walking papers which he gladly flipped into the Conn Smyth trophy as well as his name forever etched on Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Does Botterill take the fall for the entire world knowing they needed a second-line center and contributions from the second and third line since his arrival? This has been the pleading of the fans all season and most of last. His trades at the deadline will not be considered horrible. That is because he gave to the Penguins an underachieving UFA. He also unloaded a player who maybe got promoted earlier or at all from the AHL based on being a linemate of Captain Jack in college.
The draft choice to Jersey will end up being the worst of the options built into the trade based on games played by the player as well as contingent on if the Sabres made the playoffs. The Sabres making the playoffs was a contingency that the Devils had as an opportunity for a better pick. Either way….the pick will get the Devils a player that never sees the NHL or if that player matures greatly post-draft, a fourth-line role player. Maybe a development goaltender that late in the draft.
I have been strongly opinionated on Botts running out of opportunities in Buffalo. That said, because continuous change takes away any sense of stability, I think he should be given the opportunity to put his stamp on the team. He has been stuck with overpriced underachieving contracts impacting the salary cap that he inherited from Tim Murray. He finally rid himself of the man overstaying his welcome, Zach Bogosian.
Botterill could have been much more creative, aggressive and certainly did not react to the historic collapse last year. But he comes highly regarded and trained and has brought In help in scouting and management. Personally I would bring in a retired executive with a great track record and make him the President of hockey operations. He would not have the rigorous grind of a GM. He would simply oversee GM guiding, coaching, and training. The GM does the labor and the President or even part-time consultant oversees the first time GM. A hockey Gu Ru. Botts would directly report to a hockey guy gaining wisdom and being challenged for his every move or decision. For a rookie GM that makes more sense than reporting to oil drilling billionaires. That would be Botts last opportunity. Not making him a Dead-Man-Walking or lame duck. An honest opportunity to have guidance while finally being free of salary cap prison Tim Murray left behind. If he does not execute the needed upgrades properly or still stays as a deer in headlights afraid to take a risk, then the President can have Botts walked out of the building and hire his own guy as GM.
Just to clear the air: Just because the same people own your cities Hockey and Football team….in no way suggests that one team needs to go on an amazing streak of losing in efforts to match the “Great Drought” record. Be in the headlines for a positive accomplishment, not as the longest active playoff drought. Stealing shamelessly from a scolding lecturing parent out there in Hockey Land,” Just because the Bills jump in a lake doesn’t mean the Sabres should jump in a lake.”
That was deep. I know you understand the previous somewhat sarcastic paragraph .I really wish I didn’t have any of the stats giving me the opportunity to twist it in to a ridiculous accusation to stress the point of being tired of losing. So tired.