Buffalo Sabres: The Making of a Contender Part 3 of 3, Now Do You Believe

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Buffalo Sabres: The Making of a Contender continues on with Part 3 of 3: Now do you Believe. The Infamous words by Sabres announcer and play-by-play man, Rick Jeanneret. This is the final piece of a three-part article that has dissected the Sabres current defensive and forward rosters and potential talent in the pipeline with parts one and two respectively. The third and final article will be two-fold, first we look at the goal-tending situation with the Sabres then we will dive into the recent news on the possible sale of the team and what that means for the future of the organization. Finally, at the close of this third article of the series, we pull it all together and attempt to answer the question that this article has been focused on: Are the Buffalo Sabres a Contender in the Making? Let us begin the final analysis…

First up, the goaltenders. It is common practice for most of the Sabres fan base to consider themselves fortunate enough to have a long line of distinguished net minders in the Sabres history. And they are correct. Let’s take a look at the Sabres current and future puck stoppers.

Ryan Miller – ($6.25 million, 3 yrs)

Miller (or Millsie, as some call him) is about as solid of a goaltender as an organization can have between the pipes. Known as the “unofficial” Captain of the Buffalo Sabres, his leadership on and off the ice are unquestioned. The first one on and the last one off the ice in every instance. Some fans say he lets in the occasional soft goal that costs the team heavily in competition and there is evidence of this (the Crosby goal in the Gold Medal game in this past Olympics comes to mind immediately).

Certain players appear to have Millers number as well (the aforementioned Sidney Crosby for instance, does very well against Miller every game it seems like) and this leads to some key questions with Miller.

Does he have what it takes to lead the Buffalo Sabres to the promise land? To date the answer to that question is no, he is not Dominik Hasek. This cannot take away from his amazing focus and game play however. Miller has a Vezina Trophy (awarded to the top goaltender in the league each season), you don’t win this award by luck. He is rock solid and even though he has the occasional off-game, is hands down the Buffalo Sabres number one net minder. That may change however, as he draws towards the end of his current contract. Given the amount of money other “Franchise” players are sure to demand, Miller may become expendable as he ages towards his mid thirties and younger, hungry talent in net begins to come up through the ranks.

Patrick Lalime – ($650,000 UFA)

This will most likely be Lalime’s last season as a Sabre. With a younger Enroth ready to join the club as a backup net minder and Lalime’s apparent inability to garner any type of victory pattern the club will most likely go with youth. Lalime deserved a better fate than what he was given here in Buffalo these last two seasons. Oftentimes, the team in front of him seemed to just hang him out to dry. He had some bad games but also showed he could compete (last seasons 2-1 Chicago game comes to mind). Many of the fan base are more than prepared to say goodbye, I must agree with this, I would also go so far as to say he shouldn’t have been re-signed this season, but whats done is done.

Jhonas Enroth – ($866,667 RFA)

Enroth is more than ready to step in and fill the backup goaltenders position with the Sabres. After having honed his skills for three seasons in Portland, he looks prepared to take the next step. Under the tutelage of Ryan Miller for the next three seasons, Enroth will no doubt end up as a No. 1 goalie in the NHL.

The question is, is he the heir apparent to Ryan Miller and if so, will he ascend to the Sabres net minders throne of No. 1 goalie upon the eventual departure of Ryan Miller? This is a question that is being mulled now by the fan base, but it is much to early to answer. A plethora of events must take place first to see where Miller is going to sit, then the Enroth question can be answered. For now, the Sabres faithful can take solace in the fact that true help is on the way next season for the back up goal-tenders position in Buffalo, that in itself is most welcomed news.

David Leggio – ($500,000 RFA)

Perhaps the largest surprise within the Sabres organizational pipeline. If fans have not had a chance to see Leggio play (or some of you may not have even heard of him as of yet), I highly recommend you research this young, come out-of-nowhere talent. He is currently splitting games with Enroth with the Portland Pirates (the Buffalo Sabres AHL farm team) and has something he apparently wishes to share with the Sabres faithful: He Is For Real! Leggio spent four years at Clarkson University with a record of 59-29-12 and a .922 save percentage with eight shutouts. He also won back to back ECAC tournaments in 2007 and 2008.

Over the summer of 2010, the Sabres signed him to an AHL contract which they converted to a two way, one year NHL deal. The organization has shown they like this local kid from Williamsville, New York, a suburb of Buffalo (but fans tend to remember the Kennedy affair when it comes to local talent). Can he break the line up with the big club? Only Leggio can answer that question and he’ll have to do it on the ice, through hard work and success.

Conner Knapp, Bradley Eidson and Nik Eno round out the Sabres prospects for net minders in the pipeline. Knapp is currently playing at the University of Miami, he shows steady progress to date. Eidson is currently playing at the University of North Dakota and Eno is with Bowling Green University. Neither prospect has stood out as top tier goaltending material, but they have time to develop. The Sabres may be thinking goaltender in a mid round pick this season or next season in an effort to shore up the pipeline.

Possible New Ownership of the Buffalo Sabres:

Lets not waste any time and dive right into this subject. First the back drop this story all falls on. Every fan of the Buffalo Sabres should send a hearty SHOUT OUT to Tom Galisano, current owner of the team for saving the club from bankruptcy and the possibility of them being sold and shipped out of town. THANK YOU TOMMY G.

Since Mr. Galisano bought this team two Eastern Conference Finals and a painful downward spiral followed. In 1997, the organization (then owned by the criminals that ran Adelphia Cable) brought in two individuals that remain with the club to this day and are considered by various factions of the fan base as controversial at best.

Darcy Regier, General Manager, Buffalo Sabres

Regier is despised by a majority of the fan base for his inability to make moves and put the final pieces in place to bring a Stanley Cup Championship to Buffalo. He has been shrewed in his dealings, but his short comings are more than obvious. It is widely rumored throughout the NHL and the fan base that some players will not sign with Buffalo while Regier is in charge. If this is true or not remains to be seen, but more than several players have indicated that is the case.

Lindy Ruff, Head Coach, Buffalo Sabres

Ruff is considered one of the top coaches in the game today. Well respected by his peers and by many players in the league itself, he is by far the most coveted coach by multiple teams fan bases. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard other fans say “I wish we had Ruff as our head coach” I’d be retired. But, Ruff does not come without his own detractors here in Buffalo. Some of the fan base squarely blame Ruff for the lack of passion from his players. I cannot subscribe to this. Ruff can only do what he can do with the talent given to him by Regier is my opinion.

With all of this we have the news that has created an unmistakable buzz among sports fans in Western New York. The Buffalo Sabres may be sold, and to a hockey fan fanatic who has been a fan of the team for years.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you:

Terrance Pegula, worth somewhere around $3.5 to $4 billion dollars

Mr. Pegula’s wife is from the Western New York region, they have lived in Orchard Park, a suburb of Buffalo. They have had season tickets to the team for years. Mr. Pegula sold his majority interest in East Resources, an energy company that has Natural Gas as its majority business. His love for the sport of hockey is highly recognized as he just recently gave $88 million dollars to Penn State University to build a state of the art Division 1 hockey arena.

According to multiple reports Mr. Pegula and Mr. Galisano have agreed on a price for the sale of the Sabres, $175 million dollars. With the sale currently under going review by both parties and the NHL, it is most likely that no players will be moved in trades until completion of the sale. There are other large questions the fan base have as well. We all feel comfortable that the Sabres, should this sale go through, will be in good hands and that a Championship is Mr. Pegula’s goal.

There are however, the questions of Regier and Ruff and their respective futures with the club. It is the assessment of this writer that Regier has seen his last days as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres (many fans will have just held their own parties of the decade with that statement), and I come to this conclusion based on Mr. Pegula himself. This, ladies and gentlemen, is a man who breeds success and he will bring that attitude with him to the club. I do however, believe Lindy Ruff will be retained as the head coach for another two years minimum. These are merely my thoughts on the situation and I strongly urge all of the readers to chime in with their own on the situation.

So, at the end of it all we can surmise the following:

The defensive unit is in a rebuild, mostly from within the organization and that is an ongoing affair that is making headway.

The forwards are currently in shambles with near zero secondary scoring. In order to right the ship this years off season (the draft and Free Agency) need to start addressing this immediately if it is to keep pace with the defensive rebuild.

The goaltenders position appears to look as solid as it can with a couple of options in the club’s internal talent pipeline that have potential.

New ownership on the way, with a renewed sense of purpose and by a man with local connections and a passion for both the team and the game itself.

With this information now bundled together, I ask the fan base to ask themselves:

Now Do You Believe?

The Buffalo Sabres: Are They A Contender In The Making?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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