Another offseason goes by and still no Kovalchuk or Gonchar in a sabres uniform however as always there is optimism in sabreland. Here's a look at what the sabres accomplished and what they still need to accomplish this offseason and what to expect in the upcoming season


Defensive Shuffle

The Buffalo Sabres lost two key members of their defense when Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman filed for free agency and before you assume that Darcy Regier played Mr. Scrooge with their contracts, you might want to reconsider.

In Lydman's case, I don't think Regier had any interest in bringing back the Finnish defenceman. With options like Marc-Andre Bergeron, Andy Sutton, and Jordan Leopold (who eventually signed with the Sabres) on the market, Regier decided to take his chances. In my opinion it payed off, as Jordan Leopold brings more leadership to the team than Lydman.

Henrik Tallinder, however, was a different story. The Sabres tried hard to re-sign Tallinder, who worked very well with protege defenceman Tyler Myers; however, they fell short when the New Jersey Devils offered Tallinder a staggering four-year deal paying him $3.75 million per year. I won't be the first to say that Tallinder had a great year and deserved a pay raise, but with four goals and 16 assists I'm not so sure $3.75 million is a fair amount.

Instead, the Sabres turned their attention to Tomas Kaberle. However, that excitement for Sabres fans was short lived when Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke decided to play hardball and would not budge to a Sabres counter-offer.

The Sabres turned their attention to defenceman Shaone Morrison, who signed a two-year, two-way deal. Still, the Sabres are exploring other options like Marc-Andre Bergeron and Portland Pirates defenceman Marc-Andre Gragnani, who is expected to have a great shot at making the opening night roster and making a splash in the 2010-11 season.

Overall, I don't believe the Sabres defensive core has really changed. The Sabres defence is good, not great, but good with loads of unharnessed potential from guys like Gragnani, Sekera, and even Myers which, if harnessed, could lead to better success on what was a rather disappointing defence, scoring-wise.

 

Added Leadership

For the last few years the Sabres have been prioritizing the addition of leadership to the roster and they may have finally clicked this offseason. With the key additions of journeyman Jordan Leopold and veteran Rob Niedermeyer, the Sabres have finally put together the leadership necessary to lead a team through the playoffs.

 

Offence wanted

Even though the defense and leadership look great the Sabres still lack one very important and final piece to the Stanley Cup puzzle: Thomas Vanek's super sidekick. As good as Vanek is, it's difficult to win with just one elite scorer, four playmakers, and a Stafford as your "top six."

Even if top prospect Tyler Ennis has a great year, at the tender age of 20 he may not be too much of a factor come playoff time. The Sabres should turn their attention to shedding some of their seemingly endless supply of prospects for an NHL-ready scorer who can help improve what was a very dismal and series-breaking powerplay.

Speaking of powerplay, it's not too late for the Sabres to bolster that powerplay as Marc-Andre Bergeron (who I have hinted in this article on more than one occasion) is still available along with his 13 goals and 21 assists. With all of the attention being turned to Bieksa and Mitchell, the Sabres could very well sign Bergeron at steal price.

The only downside is Bergeron's defensive abilities are less than adequate, which may explain why the Sabres have waited more than a month to sign the guy.

Overall, this year's Sabres team is not too different from last year—unpredictable, full of potential, and heavily dependent on US Olympic hero and Vezina trophy winner Ryan Miller.

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This is Part Three of an eight-part series of questions about the Sabres that many people have been wondering about over the offseason.  

The Northeast Division of the Eastern Conference in the NHL was quietly one of the strongest divisions in the league last year, sending four of its five teams to the playoffs. 

Seeing as there are only eight slots for teams to make it, with half of them being from one division, that’s pretty good.  The Buffalo Sabres won this division only to go down to division rival Boston in the first round of the playoffs. 

The Sabres generally have the same team makeup as last year.  While they lost Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman to free agency, the Sabres signed two serviceable defenseman who to replace them, and they should fill in quite fine this season.  The Sabres also lost Tim Kennedy over a contract dispute.  However, as a small third line center, that may not matter much.  The Sabres are replacing Kennedy with veteran Rob Niedermayer. 

On top of that, the Sabres are expected to have both Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe make the big club this year, following Sabres status quo that they can easily fill spots on the roster with young rookies. 

With all the new additions and subtractions in the background, the Sabres core of Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller, Derek Roy, and Jason Pominville all come back, ready for a new season with the Sabres. 

Clearly, Ryan Miller is the heart and soul of this team.  With Miller in the lineup, the Sabres have a chance to win every night, which makes winning the division that much easier.  Without Miller, the Sabres are a team that could be on the outside of the bubble, as was proved two years ago when Scott Gomez of the New York Rangers ran into Miller behind the net and injured his ankle.  If Miller stays healthy, the Sabres will be fine.

The Sabres’ competition in the division may just be a little bit tougher this season, though.

The Boston Bruins seem to be giving Buffalo the biggest threat for competition in the division, as the Bruins traded for Panthers forward Nathan Horton.  Horton brings the Bruins a scoring touch that they lacked last season, as Horton is a consistent 60-point player who has the potential to score at least 25 goals if healthy for all 82 games. 

The Bruins also drafted forward Tyler Seguin second overall.  However, Seguin may be going back to juniors due to Boston’s salary cap situation. 

Also working to Boston’s advantage is the fact defenseman Zdeno Chara and center Patrice Bergeron are both in contract years, so it’s likely that they’ll be giving their all, hoping for a lucrative extension in Boston, or taking their talents to the open market next July. 

The Montreal Canadiens shocked the NHL last season by beating not only the President’s Trophy winning Washington Capitals, but also the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins.  Armed with small forwards, a big defense, and a hot goalie, the Canadiens beat both teams in long, seven-game series only to go down to the tough Philadelphia Flyers in the Eastern Conference Finals. 

The Canadiens have already lost a big factor in that winning formula by shipping off goalie Jaroslav Halak to the St. Louis Blues for some prospects.  However, the Canadiens are taking a gamble on goalie Carey Price, the goalie they drafted 5th overall back in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft.  Apparently, they see more upside in a goalie that seemingly can’t get out of the 3rd period most nights. 

Montreal spent last summer reshaping their roster, their biggest acquisition probably being Michael Cammalleri.  Cammalleri had a mediocre regular season, but had a stellar playoffs, scoring 13 goals and 19 points in 19 games.  Montreal also expects rookie P.K. Subban to make the NHL squad this season, as he was a revelation for the Canadiens when they called him up from Hamilton in the playoffs. 

The Ottawa Senators made it back to the playoffs last season after missing them the year before.  However, they bowed out in the first round after six games with the Pittsburgh Penguins.  The Senators also seemingly have a goalie controversy, as both Brain Elliot and Pascal LeClaire faced some troubles last season.  Brian Elliot was a streaky goalie, and Pascal LeClaire seemingly cannot stop getting injured.  

One thing that is always in favor for the Senators is that they seem to have their way with the Sabres year in and year out since the lockout.  The Senators suffered their first loss to the Sabres in over a year when Thomas Vanek had a four goal night against them in April. 

The Senators went out and made a big signing on July 1, grabbing Sergei Gonchar about 20 minutes after free agency started.  Other than that, the Senators bring back their usuals in Danny Alfredsson and Jason Spezza.  Mike Fischer had an awesome year in Ottawa last year and will be counted on to do it again this season. 

While the Toronto Maple Leafs are still probably going to hold up the rear of the Northeast Division, they shouldn’t be taken too lightly anymore.  Phil Kessel is back and fully healthy, so he should regain the scoring touch that Boston missed a lot last season after trading Kessel to the Leafs.  The Leafs will also want defenseman Luke Schenn to rebound from his sophomore slump.  

The Leafs also find themselves with two good goaltenders, one being veteran J.S. Giguere, and the other being up-and-coming Swedish phenom Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson.  The Leafs acquired Giguere late last season from the Anaheim Ducks to give Gustavsson somebody better to back up than Vesa Toskala, who was a huge bust in Toronto. 

While proving to be an episode, the Leafs ultimately decided to keep defenseman Tomas Kaberle on their roster at least until the trade deadline.  Kaberle was the hottest rumor on the trade market all offseason.  However, his no-trade clause kicked in at midnight on August 15, with Kaberle staying put with the team that signed him to a five-year deal back in 2006.  This will likely be his last season with Toronto, as he hits free agency at the end of this season.

The Leafs will also bring up some promising rookies next season, with their 2009 first-round selection Nazem Kadri being atop the list to make the team.  Another promising youngster Tyler Bozak returns, hoping to build on his successful 37 games with the Leafs last season.  Bozak is expected to be a good player for the Leafs in his first full season with the team. 

With most of the Northeast’s teams returning with mostly the same cast, it’s not too early to assume that it might be one of the toughest divisions in the league again, and it’ll be tough for the same team to win this division two years in a row.  

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You can also check me out as the beat-writer for the Buffalo Sabres at Sports Haze, an up-and-coming sports website.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

This is Part Two of an eight-part series of questions about the Sabres that many people have been wondering about over the offseason

Defense hasn't really been a strong suit of the Sabres for the few years after the lockout. However, last year's defense may have surprised many people.  

While it certainly is not an elite defense, the Sabres' defense could have been considered a top 15 defense last season, which puts them in the top half of the league. 

With the emergence of defensman Tyler Myers, the Sabres gained a credible defensman on their team who will probably make his name in the league for years to come.  While defensman Henkrik Tallinder can be credited for the "tutoring" of Myers, Tallinder's play benefited just as much as Myers' did. 

Steve Montador had a decent year as far as statistics go, and he was highly underrated as far as the Sabres defense goes.  His partner for most of the year, Toni Lydman, was mostly solid, though he had trouble with turnovers.  

Craig Rivet, captain of the Sabres, had a down year, playing with rotating defensman Andrej Sekera and Chris Butler; with neither being able to nail down a roster spot. If there was anything weak about the Sabres' defense last year, it was their defensive depth.  

Craig Rivet's troubles sprouted from an injury that he had suffered the season before, when he tore the double labrum in his shoulder.  Rivet recently had surgery on the shoulder and should be back by the season opener, according to GM Darcy Regier.  

Besides hoping that Rivet's shoulder heals up nicely, the Sabres had two other problems at the beginning of this offseason: the expiring contracts of Toni Lydman and Henrik Tallinder.  

The Sabres were not able to get a deal done before free agency kicked off, as they lost Lydman (Ducks) and Tallinder (Devils) to their respective new teams.  

To fix this problem, the Sabres made two defensive signings.  Darcy Regier announced the signing of defensman Jordan Leopold to a three-year deal on July 1st, the day free agency in the NHL started.  Many assumed that Leopold would be the only addition to the Sabres' defensive core, as it was expected that Regier would fill the remaining spots with minor leaguers like Mike Weber or Marc-Andre Gragnani.  

However, Regier shocked the Sabres fan base by waiving forward Buffalo's own Tim Kennedy, and then signing defensman Shaone Morrisonn on the same day.  Morrisonn brings the Sabres a strong, stay-at-home defensman, who has been partnered with offensive defensman Mike Green of the Washington Capitals.  

With the subtractions of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman, someone would be hard-pressed to say that the Sabres could roll out a better defensive unit this year, though it is possible.  

Jordan Leopold brings the Sabres a possible power play quarterback, as Leopold is known more to be an offensive defensman; something the Sabres truly lacked last season.

Shane Morrisonn brings the Sabres a stay-at-home defensman they've been missing since Jay McKee left to join the St. Louis Blues in 2006.  

If Rivet can come back fully healthy, he could have a bounce-back year along with defensive partner Chris Butler, who could certainly use a healthy Rivet after the year he had last year.  Butler was a revelation during the final months of his rookie campaign, though he went through a major sophomore slump. Playing with a healthy defense partner could do wonders for Butler in his third and final year on his entry-level contract.  

Tyler Myers hopes not to have the sophomore slump as Chris Butler did, but he can look no further than Maple Leaf's defensman Luke Schenn that it could very well happen to himself this year.  Myers is a very smart defensman who seems way beyond his years in his knowledge of the game.  

The big question is: of Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani, who makes the big club?  Sekera will need to have a strong camp in order to make the team, as he seemed to be in Lindy Ruff's doghouse along with Chris Butler last season.  It is quite possible that Butler could be sent back down to Portland in favor of Weber or Gragnani. Weber would bring the Sabres another stay-at-home defensman.  However, Weber does log a lot of PIMs, and a lot of stupid ones at that.  Gragnani brings an offensive upside to the Sabres, as he has led the Portland Pirates in points for defensmen the last two years. Andrej Sekera will likely make the team no matter what, as he has a one-way contract. Sekera could end up being the Sabres' 7th defensman, though, meaning he'd see a lot of the press box.  

Through all of this, there is one person who hopes that the Sabres' defense is at least on par, or better than the Sabres defensive unit last season.  Ryan Miller won a Vezina Trophy for league's best goaltender last season behind this defense.  If this year's defense is better than last year's, then that bodes well for him.  

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You can also check me out as the beat-writer for the Buffalo Sabres at Sports Haze, an up-and-coming sports website.  


Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

 

This is Part 1 of an eight-part series of questions about the Sabres that many people have been wondering about over the offseason.  

Without a doubt, the Sabres have some very small players on their team. While in recent drafts they've been drafting bigger players to compensate, their present team still lacks a little size up front, more than people would probably like.  

The best examples of this theory fall upon two rookies expected to make the big club this year.

Tyler Ennis, drafted 26th overall in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, has already made one heck of a professional career in his one season in the AHL. Ennis started off slow in his first year with the Portland Pirates, the Sabres AHL affiliate. However, he slowly found his scoring touch and wound up winning the AHL Rookie of the Year award with 23 goals and 65 points in 69 games.  

Ennis played so well in the AHL that also was called up at the end of the season for the Sabres, playing in 10 regular season games, registering three goals and nine points.  In the playoffs, he had four points in six games.  

While Ennis put up wonderful statistics, the one thing that may put him down is his overall size. The Sabres' roster has Ennis as a 5'9", 163 pounds. center. That's fairly small for an NHL player, but certainly hasn't stopped some people in the NHL, like Martin St. Louis of the Tampa Bay Lightning.  

Another up-and-coming rookie, Nathan Gerbe stands at 5'5" and 160 pounds. Despite his size, Gerbe has put up good stats in his time in the AHL, earning him Rookie of the Year honors in Portland, just like Tyler Ennis did a year after him.  

Gerbe spent a good portion of his time injured last season in Portland, but still was able to grab 38 points in 44 games. In the 10 games that he played for the Sabres last season, he scored two goals and five points. He also had two points in four games in the playoffs. 

The size challenges don't stop there. Derek Roy, a perennial 60-70 point player, stands only at 5'10", weighing 191 pounds.  

There are also players that actually size up pretty well, but the way these players play, it would seem that they have no size whatsoever. Drew Stafford, a right winger who measures up to 6'1" and 216 pounds seems like he has no desire to use that size in his play, whatsoever.  

While the Sabres seemingly have a small roster, does it really matter?  

The Montreal Canadiens made a playoff run last year with players like Mike Camalleri, Scott Gomez, Brian Gionta, Tomas Plekanic, and Tom Pyatt, who all stand below six feet tall. However, many put it on the Canadiens defense, who have not one player standing below six feet tall, and a hot goaltender in Jaroslav Halak as to why they made such a deep run.  

The Sabres seemingly are building to this formula. None of the Sabres starting six defensman fall below six feet tall, nor do they weigh less than 200 pounds. The Sabres have one of the best starting goalies in the league in Ryan Miller, who won a Vezina Trophy this past year.  

Plus, beyond Roy, Ennis, and Gerbe, everyone else on the team is at least six feet tall, and at least 185 pounds. Many of these players use the low weights as a speed advantage. The Sabres have made it clear that if any team wants to go up and down the ice with them, they'll win 9-out-of-10 times that way.  

At this point, it is not a lack of size on this team that is holding the Sabres back. It could just be a lack of passion.  

Follow me on Twitter (@tluck81)
You can also check me out as the beat-writer for the Buffalo Sabres at Sports Haze, an up-and-coming sports website.  

 

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

It's a new NHL season.

General Managers of all the teams in league have been desperately trying to improve their rosters.

Whether it's through the draft or trades or by signing free agents new players are being added to teams throughout the league.    

This is a look at the new faces that have been added to the teams of the Northeast division: Boston Bruins, Buffalo Sabres, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, Toronto Maple Leafs. 

I have included the two new faces that I believe will be making the biggest contribution to their team during the new season.  

 

Begin Slideshow

The Buffalo Sabres announced today that they have re-signed forward Mark Mancari to a one-year, two-way deal.  The deal is worth up to $575K according to CapGeek.com.

Mancari was drafted by the Buffalo Sabres as the 207th overall pick in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. He has led the Sabres' AHL affiliate Portland Pirates in points the past two seasons, and the Rochester Americans the season before that.  Last season, he notched 28 goals along with 45 assists for 73 points with the Pirates.

Mancari has been called up to the Sabres on three separate occasions in his career.  He has gotten at least one point on each occasion, registering two points last season with the club in seven games. Mancari has five points in 16 career NHL games.

Mancari also currently holds the record for fastest shot in the AHL, a record he achieved at the 2008 All-Star Classic Skills Competition, shooting a puck that registered 102.8 MPH.

 

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This offseason in particular has been received mixed reviews from the fans for obvious reasons.  The Sabres had many problems on the ice and it showed in their 1st round elimination in the playoffs.  Is it realistic to question all of these moves and assess whether they will still be a playoff team at the end of the season?  Or will they simply fade out like they had the two previous years?

The Draft:  I will not go into detail about the draft, simply because it is a crapshoot to say who will make the roster in the next few years.  For example, Miller was a later pick, and look at him now.  Their first round selection was Mark Pysyk.  Now, he is not a stand out like Tyler Myers was.  But he is consistent but won't wow anyone with his play.  But he gets his job done.  I was not expecting the Sabres to take two defenseman with their first picks.  All in all, they took a run on defenseman with their two picks, then went for the centers, and grabbed another defenseman.  They then filled out their wings with their later picks.

Free agency:  Shortly before free agency we re-signed Mike Grier.  I myself love Griers physicality and work ethic.  He is a veteran player who has playoff experience and is somewhat of a role model for the young players on the team.  He is a player who will always give 100% and was one of the reasons the Sabres got back into the playoffs. My Grade B+

Free agency started off with the losses of Henrik Tallindar and Toni Lydman.  I was shooting for the Sabres to re-sign Tallindar because it would have been good for the 1st line consistency.  Yet, in the back of my mind I remembered how before being paired up with Tyler Myers, Tallindar's two previous seasons were nothing to brag about.  From what I heard, Tallindar did not really want to stay in Buffalo.  He signed with the Devils with a 4 year 13.5 million dollar deal. My Grade D-

Toni Lydman was not someone I was a big fan of.  He had nearly zero offensive production, and was always viewed as a physical defenseman.  However, last season he seemed to lose his physical edge.  He has never been one with great puck control and would even carelessly turn over the puck trying to make something happen.  I was truly hoping the Sabres would not resign him, and my wish came true when he signed with the Ducks for 3 years totaling 9 million.My Grade B+

The Sabres then had to fix their blueline and fast.  They signed Jordan Leopold for 3 million a season for 9 million.  The Sabres needed more scoring from their blueline and that is what Leopold brings.  He is a puck moving defenseman who had a career high 11 goals and 15 assists.  That may not be off the charts, but when you consider Lydman and Tallindar had only 8 goals combined, it comes in handy.  My Grade B+

The Sabres then looked towards their offense and decided they needed to get more grit.  With that came the signing of Rob Niedermayer.  Last year for the Devils he did not bring much offensive production (10 goals, 12 assists) but brought valuable leadership.  He will probably be the 3rd or 4th line center, but will bring the toughness to a team that lacked it in the playoffs.  He signed a 1 year, 1.15 millions dollar contract. My Grade A

Sabres fans seemed to scratch their head at the move to re-sign Patrick Lalime for the backup goalie position.  Last season he played far better than people thought he did.  Though he went 4-8, he had a .907 save percentage.  That shows the play of the team around him rather then his play.  This move, though a good one on its own, it was heavily favored by Ryan Miller, who is good friends with Lalime, and often asks him for advice.  It supposedly was Miller who asked them to re-sign him.  The Sabres signed him to a 1 year $600,000 deal.  My Grade B

Cody McCormick was also re-signed by the Sabres.  He is a physical center that was brought up in the first round of the playoffs for his physical presence.  He will most likely spend this season in the AHL again, but I would not doubt it if you see him brought up if the injury bug hits. My Grade C

The most controversial move of the offseason according to Sabres fans was the buyout of Tim Kennedy after his arbitration award.  Kennedy had 10 goals 16 assists last season, but lacks the physicality that the Sabres are trying to instill on their players.  Kennedy was awarded a 1 million dollar contract in arbitration, and was then placed on waivers by the Sabres.  The Sabres did not want to play him 1 million dollars on a one-way contract to a player who most likely would not make the roster, and play in the AHL this season. 

At first, as someone who is from Buffalo, this move hit me personally.  A kid from Buffalo, ending up on the roster and playing for his hometown team, and then getting boughtout over 1 millions dollars.  However, instead of questioning this move, fans should praise it.  It was a way of making the team better.  Kennedy, while young, is 24, and does not have much upside.  He only had 10 goals last season, and would likely not have made the roster because of players like Ennis and Gerbe, who have both shown to be better.  Kennedy also disappeared for a large number of games.  If he wasn't from Buffalo, no one would care that he was bought out.  And if fans care over this, then they really do not want the cup in Buffalo. My Grade A

Following the buyout of Tim Kennedy, the Sabres signed defenseman Shaon Morrisonn.  Last season for the Capitals he was a tough, physical stay at home defenseman, who was a leader in hits.  With this you can expect a phyical defense this season, that won't get pushed around by other physical teams.  He signed 2 years 4 million. My Grade B-

RFA:  The Sabres signed Mike Weber, and Marc-Andre Gragnani to one year deals, as they are Restricted Free Agents.  I was expecting Mike Weber to make the roster this season, but with the signing of Morrisonn, I expect him to play another season in the AHL. My Grade A

In the end, I give the Sabres a B.  I like what they did on most fronts.  They came out with a much more physical team that won't get pushed around.  They improved their offense by buying out Tim Kennedy.  I expect Tyler Ennis to have a great season this year, he has the speed and skills to be a great playmaker in this league.  I also believe they increased their blueline depth with their signings.  I have mixed feelings on Shaon Morrisonn, I like him as a player, but I do not like it because it mean that Mike Weber spends another season in the AHL.  Nonetheless, it was a successful offseason for the Sabres.

 

 

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I thought he’d given up on me. It has been almost a year since I first heard from Brave Throat. Despite my best efforts to light a fire under the idea of bringing the Braves back to Buffalo, I had received less than a grand and a few season tickets in commitments—and, to be honest, was eventually distracted by life and gave up on the idea.

I’ve been looking over my shoulder, though, fearful that he’d eventually show up in a more Dickensian form, terrorizing me with dream-travel to a Buffalo future sans the Bills and Sabres. I was already imagining it—Buffalo back in the AHL and the AFL as in (the new, old) Arena Football League.

But no. He was understanding of, if not completely resigned to, my failure.

As I suspected, he would not use text messaging to get my attention. He simply popped into my room when I was asleep last night, appearing as some kind of hologram. He had company. Randy Smith. That threw me for a loop.

The two gave me a moment to absorb, then Ranallo, aka Brave Throat spoke up.

“OK, John, I think I over-estimated Buffalo. I should’ve known.”

“Well, the problem is everyone is afraid of losing the Bills when (owner) (Ralph) Wilson dies (which at 90-plus, could be any second) that they are trying to circle the wagons. If they’re going to kick in some hard earned cash, it’s going to stop the bleeding, not revisit old wounds.”

“I know you’ve tried hard to convince them that there’s no saving the Bills without returning the Braves. It’s not your fault, Johnny. Just relax.”

“Whew!” Huge exhale. “So, what next?”

“Screw the Clippers,” Ranallo said. We can still bring back the Braves, in one important sense, and my sources in the netherworld tell me that would be an alternative antidote to the Curse.”

“Bring back the Braves without the Clippers?”

“One letter, Johnny Boy! W.”

“I don’t get it. W for ‘win?”

“W for women.”

“Women?”

“WNBA, Johnny. None of the WNBA teams are making money. Some are losing big time. There’s been contraction. Franchises have moved. Several others are there for the taking. The LA Sparks sold recently for $10 million.”

“Whoa! I never thought of that. That’s a hell of a lot less than $300 mil.”

“So, what are we down to? Three bucks per resident of the Niagara Frontier. Oh, wait. You don’t call it that any more. What is it? Buffalo Niagara, right?”

“But I thought the whole issue was the name, the logo, the offense to the Indians.”

“So, it is. So, why do we need the Clippers? The curse may have ruined them forever, anyway. We just need a major league basketball team that somehow utilizes the name and the logo, and, if at all possible, at least one or two people with some connection to the Braves. So, here’s what we do: We buy a struggling WNBA team, change the name, bring in Mac and Gar Heard as coaches (both are currently assistant coaches in the NBA), and we’ve brought the Braves back.”

“So we’d call a women’s team 'Braves?' Does that work?”

We call them the 'Buffalo Brave' (the singular plural, like deer, etc.).

“Ah, as in brave women, a brave town, a spirit of courage and determination.”

“BINGO!”

“And since the WNBA plays in the Spring and Summer, there will be no competition with the Sabres for dates or for fans. Sure, there’s the Bisons, but that’s apples and oranges. They’re minor league and the WNBA is major league. It’s the perfect plan.”

“Johnny, I knew you’d figure it out. Now, get busy. You’ve got $10 million to raise. And things aren’t getting any better for sports in Buffalo. For instance, what happened to the Sabres? You think it’s a coincidence that a former Sabre named Satan caused a reversal of momentum? And the Bills draft? No Jimmy Clausen, or even Tebow?  No Jimmy Clausen, or even Tebow?  No offensive line? Time’s a wastin'.”

I need three bucks from each of you. Pay up.

***

Photo: A full house for the Braves at the Aud in 1974

Read the entire Brave Throat Series:

Part One: Why the Clippers Must Return to Buffalo

Part Two: Brave Throat Resurfaces

Part Three: Metaphysics, Simple Math, the Super Bowl and the Stanley Cup

Part Four: Brave Throat Revealed and the Plot Thickens

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

The offseason for the Buffalo Sabres has been status quo, as the team has not made any major moves or signings for the upcoming season.

The status quo for the Sabres includes signing replacements as players leave, or just promoting through the system.  

On July 1st, the Sabres signed defenseman Jordan Leopold to replace one of two defensive spots vacated by Henrik Tallinder, signed by the New Jersey Devils, and Toni Lydman, signed by the Anaheim Ducks.  Just days ago, the Sabres signed defensman Shaone Morrisonn to fill the other defensive vacancy.

The Sabres are expected to allow rookies Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe to vie for spots on the team this season.  The team bought out Tim Kennedy on Monday to clear out the logjam that they had at forward.

Other than that, the Sabres' talent is mostly homegrown, and that's not expected to change any time soon.

While there haven't been many major signings, the Sabres have made sure to bring in veterans along the way to help their young core of players grow into the leaders they expect them to become.

Whether that happens is anyone's guess. 

Over the past few seasons, the Sabres have brought in some aging, but proven veterans to help their core grow.  Darcy Regier traded for Craig Rivet in 2008, who has been the captain for the past two seasons.

Regier also brought back fan favorite Mike Grier last season, who left the team back in 2006 because he believed that the Sabres were not going in a winning direction.  That he came back says that he believes that the Sabres may be on the right path. 

"It's been good for me," Grier said back in May, when he re-signed with the team for a year.  "Lindy and Darcy and those guys have been great, and they've given me some responsibility, and fitting in to that dressing room has been pretty easy for me."

Grier went on to say that he sees young players with a lot of talent on the team, and that he hopes to pass on a little knowledge that he's collected of the sport over the years.  

A new addition to the team this year is Rob Niedermayer, who was a Stanley Cup winner in Anaheim in 2007, when the Anaheim Ducks beat the Ottawa Senators in five games to win the NHL's big prize.  

"He's recognized as someone that is very responsible, very reliable, and a very good team player," said Sabres GM Darcy Regier about Niedermayer.  "I think it allows [Lindy] at lot of flexibility."

On top of the Niedermayer signing, the Sabres re-signed goalie Patrick Lalime, who will backup starter Ryan Miller.  While he hasn't been the most reliable backup goalie, Lalime is somebody who shares a good friendship with Ryan Miller, who made it a point to mention Lalime in his Vezina Trophy speech this past year.  It also allows the Sabres to keep prospect Jhonas Enroth in Portland to play another full season and develop.

The Sabres' lack of major signings leaves the fans wondering whether or not this team truly wants to win it all.  However, Darcy Regier insists that the ultimate goal is to win a championship.  Seemingly to Regier, the veterans very well could help him achieve this goal.  

You can follow me on Twitter (@tluck81). 

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The Buffalo Sabres joined the NHL in 1970, along with the Vancouver Canucks, as part of NHL expansion. The team name was chosen because owner Seymour Knox felt a sabre was a weapon carried by a leader, also noting it is swift and strong on offense, as well as defense.

After a few years of existence, the Sabres were able to accumulate several good players through the draft and through trades, but were still striving to reach the playoff plateau.

In their first playoff appearance, they made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final.

That 1975 series included the Fog Game, which was played in a heavy fog, due to a combination of a heat wave and the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium not having air conditioning. The Sabres won that game, but lost the series and the Cup to the Philadelphia Flyers in six.

The team's success after that was limited until 1996-97, when the Sabres won the Northeast Division, their first division title in 16 years.

With the emergence of Dominik Hasek in goal and Lindy Ruff taking over behind the bench, the team went back to the Stanley Cup Final in 1999, falling to the Dallas Stars in a six-game series that ended with a triple-overtime thriller.

More recently, the Sabres went to the Eastern Conference Finals in 2006 and 2007, and they won the Northeast Division last season.

Throughout the years, the Sabres have gone through a few logo and jersey changes. They currently sport blue and yellow team colors, a nod to their original color scheme. They also have worn black and red.

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