It was announced last week that Buffalo Sabres’ captain Craig Rivet could miss four-to-six months after this week’s shoulder surgery.

The 35-year-old Rivet is looking to repair a double labrum tear which has gotten progressively worse over the course of the last two seasons. The initial reports out of Sabres’ camp is that Rivet may miss the opening week of the season, but Sabres general manager Darcy Reiger is more optimistic.

“Right now we think he'll be ready,” Regier told the Buffalo News last week. “It may pull him back a little bit from being physically involved in training camp for the first week or so, but based on what we’ve gotten back from the doctors he should be ready to go.”

But it’s been a while since Rivet has been “physically involved” in any of the Sabres’ games.

This past season, Rivet finished with just one goal and 15 points, a minus-six rating, and 100 penalty minutes.

If Rivet was to miss the beginning of the 2010-11 season like reports say, it would be the best thing that the captain has contributed to Buffalo in his two years with the team. His absence would more than likely allow Mike Weber to finally make an appearance with the Sabresassuming they decide to re-sign the 22-year-old restricted free agent.

Not re-signing Weber would be a big mistake. While he has only played 23 games with the team in three seasons, but it a plus-nine in that span.

Weber only has three points in his 23-game NHL career due to the fact that he is more of a physical, “stay at home” defensemanthe exact type of defenseman that would allow either Chris Butler or Andrej Sekera to play their more offensive game without having to worry about Rivet being able to get back to make a play.

Whether it was the shoulder injury causing Rivet’s problems or not, it doesn’t change the fact that he is a slow skater who often takes bad penalties and makes poor decisions on the icequalities not often associated with a captain.

If Weber finally gets his chance due to Rivet’s surgery, then the surgery was a success. If Rivet misses a couple of weeks of play, then the surgery was a success. If Rivet is ready to go by opening day, consider the surgery a major failure.

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Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has already vowed that the offseason will begin a serious “rebuilding” period for the team. Buffalo will not be rebuilding from the ground up, but the team will be bringing in the necessary pieces to establish a Stanley Cup caliber team. But before the Sabres can go after any free agents, they have to worry about which players they will re-sign. Luckily for Regier, there are not too many players he will have to worry about. A good sign for fans is that Mike Grier has already been re-signed to a one-year contract. However, there are still a few players that the Sabres will need to re-sign in order to develop into the well-balanced contender they would like to be.

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In the summer of 2006, Sabres forward Mike Grier wasn't sure on the direction the Sabres were going and chose to leave, signing a three year deal with the San Jose Sharks.

This year, six weeks before free agency, Grier has been re-signed by the Sabres at his request.

He knew right after the playoffs that this was the team he belonged on.

The Sabres agreed to a one-year contract with the 35-year-old veteran who brings experience and knowledge to a young and promising team.

Grier scored 10 goals and had 22 points in 73 games for Buffalo this past season, but exploded in the playoffs, taking 19 shots, tied for second on the team. At times he looked as if he was 21 again with the speed and excitement he showed. He came away with two goals and led the team with 33 hits in the six-game loss to exit the playoffs. 

When Coach Lindy Ruff was asked about the veterans in the series his response was "They cherish the opportunity to be in the postseason and the chance to win it, I think they realize at this point in their game that they are not going to have many more chances. It's a great lesson for the younger players."

Since at times during the season Grier seemed to disappear some may question the signing. Remember, he did lead one of the top penalty kill units in the NHL and provides leadership that we don't see unless we are in the locker room.

Some may think Grier deserves the "C" on his chest for this upcoming season. While the signing is a positive move for a young Buffalo team how could anyone put a "C" on his chest when he left us the first time?

 

 

 

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Sigh. It's been a couple weeks, and we've all had some time to calm down and think. At this point last year, we as Buffalo Sabres fans would have been thrilled just to be in the playoffs. Now, here we are clamoring for change after an embarrassing first-round exit to the Boston Bruins, a less-talented but far-more-deserving division rival. Even a casual fan knows what went wrong, despite what GM Darcy Regier states in press conferences. Here is what we learned, and how to fix it.

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The 2009-10 season offered Sabres fans their first look at the future.

Nathan Gerbe, Tyler Myers, and Tyler Ennis all showed that they are ready to take on a bigger role with the team. Next season, these three will certainly play a more pivotal role.

Gerbe played 10 games with the Sabres and won the AHL rookie of the year during the 2008-09 season. While he had 56 points in 57 games with the Portland Pirates, Gerbe registered just one point while with Buffalo.

But this season was much different for Gerbe. He notched five points in 10 games with the Sabres during the regular season, and added two points in two games during the playoffs. He stuck to his role and elevated his offense when the Sabres needed it most.

Myers was also a nice surprise this season.

The 6’8” Calder Trophy nominee was not expected to have this type of year. Myers finished with 11 goals and 48 points and played in all 82 games this season.

Myers proved to be a quick learner. He even taught several teammates how to play quality defense.

Tyler Ennis provided an even bigger surprise at the end of the season.

Like Gerbe the year before, Ennis won the AHL rookie of the year, finishing with 65 points in 69 games for the Pirates.

But Ennis saved his best production for Buffalo; he had nine points in the team's final 10 games. The 20-year-old also led the Sabres with four points in six playoff games.

Rather than praise the youngster for his hard work on the ice, Sabres GM Darcy Regier has stated that Ennis does not have a guaranteed spot on next year's squad.

“I warned him on not being sure that he’s going to play here on the start of next season,” Regier told Sabres.com.

Regier’s warning is yet another move that will surely baffle Sabres fans. Luckily, Buffalo has added more talented youth to their lineup.

On Thursday, the team signed Nick Crawford, their sixth round pick in 2008, to a three-year, entry level contract.

Crawford may soon join Myers on the blue line.

After receiving criticism for not being offensive enough in the Ontario Hockey League two seasons ago, Crawford improved dramatically. He led all defensemen in scoring this past season.

The 6’1” Crawford had 70 points with the Saginaw Spirit and Barrie Colts this season, and finished second in the OHL’s top defenseman voting.

Players like Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Ryan Miller came up through Buffalo’s system. They are now pivotal players within the organization. Gerbe, Myers, Ennis, and Crawford will likely exceed their predecessors in almost every way.

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Coming off of the worst season of his career with the New York Islanders, Martin Biron will be looking for a new contract this summer. General Manager Darcy Regier wouldn't comment on Biron, but said the Sabres will need a veteran goalie.

It couldn't be better timing. Patrick Lalime's two-year contract comes to an end this year, giving Buffalo a couple of options for a backup goaltender. Two years ago, the Sabres had a similar situation, but chose to go with Lalime instead.

The Sabres missed a great chance to rectify their weakness by not signing Marty Biron. The Sabres should have been actively communicating with Biron throughout free agency. He was a well loved and well respected player in Buffalo. He brought a certain amount of "swagger" to the team, and was loved by his fellow players.

He was a leader in both the locker room and on the ice.

Watching Biron sign to the last place Islanders for a paltry $1.4 million dollars should be seen as a huge missed opportunity for Buffalo two years ago. Biron has NHL starting goalie material, one which led the Flyers to the postseason two years in a row. To have him back in blue and gold would be a soothing presence.

He would be there if the Sabres needed him, and he would likely also light a fire under Ryan Miller (a goalie with NHL starting goalie skills acting as a back up can have that effect). Unlike Lalime, Biron could be counted on to start games.

When Miller was injured, Lalime stepped in and was unable to do the job. Buffalo fell six spots in the standings, and missed the playoffs that year. At 32 years of age, Biron remains a solid option for Buffalo.

The 16th overall pick in the 1999 NHL Draft could very well be backing up a Vezina Trophy finalist come next October. Biron spent 11 years in the Sabres organization and still lives in the area.

A one or two year contract would be a reasonable signing for Biron and the Sabres. Buffalo has Jhonas Enroth in the minors, who could also battle for the backup spot. Almost everyone in Buffalo would love to see Biron make a return. Let's hope the Sabres make it happen

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There’s always next year. The infamous phrase heard around Buffalo has been said again this year after the Sabres were knocked out in the first round to end the season.

Fans in Buffalo were disappointed again after what looked like a promising season. The Sabres made the playoffs for the first time since winning the President’s Trophy in 2007, but were then bounced out by the Bruins in round one.

A well-played season with impressive performances from Tyler Myers and Ryan Miller gave the city of Buffalo plenty of reason to believe that the team would succeed in the postseason. After all, the Sabres earned home-ice advantage with the No. 3 seed, and were 25-10-6 at HSBC Arena.

It didn’t matter. Boston did its job against Buffalo, and is now playing in the next round, leading Philadelphia two games to none. The top three teams in the Eastern Conference were defeated in the first round. Also, all of the Vezina Trophy finalists (Ryan Miller, Ilya Bryzgalov, and Martin Brodeur) did not make it past the first round. It just goes to show that anything is possible in the postseason.

An early exit has the Sabres focused on what moves it will make this  summer. Buffalo has nine players that will become free agents if they are not signed by July 1st.

One of the biggest questions is whether or not the Sabres will trade Tim Connolly. He certainly has trade value and could make a big impact with any team, but he still has one year left on his contract, which is $4.5 million.

Connolly played more than 63 games for the first time since the 2002-2003 season, but failed to put up the amount of points that the team hoped for. Connolly was the fifth overall draft picked in 1999, and earned 96 points in 113 games spanning over three seasons.

This was Connolly’s year to prove what he could do over a full season. Despite scoring 65 points, the most in his career, Connolly was expected to do more than that. Many fans do not want him anymore, considering his cap hit is $4.5 million. It will be interesting to see what Regier plans to do this summer regarding Connolly.

Many Sabres fans already expect Raffi Torres to join another team by next season. General Manager Darcy Regier stated that the trade did not work out for the team, or for Torres. Torres earned six assists in 16 games with Buffalo, and did not make an impact on the team.

There is a good chance that backup goaltender Patrick Lalime will not return to the team for next season. His contract is up this summer and he won just four of 13 starts during the season. Many could argue that he did not see consistent playing time and was basically thrown into the net every couple of weeks.

Lalime remains a solid backup, but he could play a greater role on another team. Buffalo may keep an eye on Martin Biron, even though he is coming off of his worst career performance with the New York Islanders.

It would not be a reach to sign Biron to a small deal worth $1 million per year. That would give the Sabres time to determine if Portland Pirates goaltender Jhonas Enroth is ready for the NHL.

A pair of Buffalo’s defensemen are also looking for a new contract. Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder each earned just over $2.5 million last season, and they each scored four goals and 16 assists.

It may be tough for the Sabres to sign both, but expect at least one of them to return next season. Losing both defensemen would leave the Sabres with open spots on the roster, and Mike Weber may not be ready to make the jump from the AHL.

Buffalo native Patrick Kaleta is likely to resign with the team for two or three years. The fourth line bruiser is known for being an agitator on the ice. He knows how to effectively aggravate opponents and consistently draw penalties.

Mike Grier, Tim Kennedy, Matt Ellis, and Adam Mair will also become free agents if the Sabres are willing to let them go. It should be an interesting summer with plenty of solid free agents hitting the market. Let’s see what Regier, in possibly his final year with the Sabres, does to try and improve the team.

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The 2009-2010 NHL season was nothing short of another disappointment for the Buffalo Sabres, but the offseason will be the beginning of a serious rebuilding process after their first-round collapse against the Boston Bruins. Sabres general manager Darcy Regier has already given word that the offseason will more than likely see Buffalo make several moves. “I will try to be busy, yes,” Regier told the Associated Press last week. “Yes, I think we have to make some changes. What exactly they will consist of, it’s too early to know.” So here are some possible ideas as to who the Sabres might be keeping or bringing into town. There are a lot of “what ifs” involved with all of these possibilities, but when it comes down to it, the Sabres could possibly sign any of these players.

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