When Terry Pegula announced the purchase of the Buffalo Sabres one year ago tomorrow, he announced their sole purpose for existence to be “to win a Stanley Cup.” To say it’s been a rockier road than anyone expected could be safely placed in the “understatement” file.

Entering the “second half” of Pegula’s first full season as owner, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves at the bottom of their Northeast Division as well as in a three-way tie for last in points in the Eastern Conference.

The effect has staggered the support of a weathered and loyal fanbase. In recent years, the Sabres have often found a way to negate the continued misery that is the Buffalo Bills, inspiring hope with last-second comebacks and playoff runs over the last five years.

Little blame can be placed on Pegula for his high aspirations, especially coming into this year. After a scalding finish to the regular season and first-round elimination at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2011, the Sabres looked to solidify their roster by adding free-agents Villie Leino and Christian Ehrhoff.

Not to say the additions have had a negative effect, but they haven’t translated in the way any Sabres supporter would have hoped. Leino has netted just three goals and has produced a minus-nine on the year, while Ehrhoff’s only positive is that the team was 2-7-2 in his recent absence, despite that he’s logged a minus-10 on the season.

Obviously, the team hasn’t been helped out by their injur-tastrophies, to say the least. As of the All-Star break, the Sabres rank second in the NHL in MGL (man games lost) with 231, trailing only the 11th-place Calgary Flames who have had 238. (They’ve also played 50 games, to the Sabres’ 49.)

A final note, despite there apparently being some type of “new locker-room curse’” causing home troubles in the beginning of the year: This group currently stands 11-9-5 at the First Niagara Center, while they’re 9-15-0 on the road.

You have to look at the first 49 games of the season, and figure that it really can’t get any worse for the Sabres. Fans are beyond their wits’ end, begging for a move to be made for a legit center and even at the head coaching position, where Lindy Ruff currently finds himself the least-confident, longest-tenured man in the National Hockey League.

When you have 33 games remaining, and there’s seven teams as well as 10 points between you and a playoff spot, there should only be one goal: one game at a time. This team can start in Montreal.

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As a life long Sabres fan, it’s painful to see what the Sabres are going through. What’s even worse is I can’t even watch it at my house since we’re blacked out, so I’m subject to checking the Internet to be disappointed.

What everyone thought was one of the most promising teams in the NHL for this year has turned into a train wreck, and right now it looks like the only way to right this is to blow the team up, and retry next year.

The Sabres need to correct some issues, and realize the limitations they are stuck with for this year’s team as well.

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With the Sabres in last place right now, many believe that the dream team of Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier will be broken up after this season. They have had a remarkable run for over a decade at the forefront of the Sabres organization.

I personally do not buy the argument that Darcy Regier has much to do with the struggles that the Sabres have had this season.

Regier knows how to operate under a budget and has helped the Sabres by bringing in quality talent.

He might just have to make due with the new policy that owner Terry Pegula has brought to the city of Buffalo—bringing in outside talent (besides an A-list superstar). But that alone will not lead the Sabres into good position at the end of this season.

So we look at the current problem, which is that an uninspired team that plays terribly on the road has not been able to come close to expectations. I do not see what that has to do with Darcy Regier, I think that the blame for that falls squarely on the shoulders of Lindy Ruff.

I wrote an article at the beginning of this season about how the Sabres were a legitimate Stanley Cup contender after adding Ehrhoff and Regehr. Now I look like I have no idea what I was talking about as I am watching them jostle for points with the Canadiens just to get out of the basement in the Northeast Division.

I know that Lindy Ruff has been an excellent coach for a long time, but many other teams would have fired their coaches in a similar crisis. On paper, this team should be in the top six in the Eastern Conference. Go ask Bruce Boudreau what happens if expectations are not met, and the Caps are certainly closer to getting a playoff spot than the Sabres are.

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Lately, the Buffalo Sabres have been absolutely atrocious. They have more than earned their spot in the depths of the Eastern Conference, ahead of only the woeful Carolina Hurricanes.

Anytime a team struggles, rumors of potential trades are brought about. That’s just the nature of the game.

One guy who has found his name in the trade rumor mill is goaltender Ryan Miller.

I’ll just come out and say it: Folks, it ain’t happening; Ryan Miller will not be traded at the trade deadline.

Despite his inability to stop a beach ball this season, Miller is still one of the most highly-regarded goaltenders in the game.

Perhaps Miller is just having a bad season? Or maybe his play thus far is an indicator of what’s to come in the future? Yeah, I’ll go with the former. The whole Sabres team is struggling, and Miller is a product of just that.

Why give up on a guy who has been lights out for his entire career until this point? He’s been the sole reason why the Sabres have been competitive for the past few years.

Miller has two years remaining on his contract, worth $6.250 million a year, per capgeek. You rarely see salaries of this magnitude being moved during the regular season, especially in this salary-cap era.

If Miller ends up being dealt—it would be a colossal mistake—it will be during the offseason.

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Darcy Regier will face his second summer with his pockets loaded by Terry Pegula. Last year, despite making some good additions like Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, he gave Ville Leino a six-year, $27 million contract. 

Leino is an extremely questionable addition at that price because he was coming off a marvelous season playing in the first line of the Flyers after being buried in the Red Wings.

This year, the Sabres don’t need to go after the marquee forwards such as Zach Parise or Alexander Semin. They have now the chance to right their boat before they get to the situation that the Canadiens are in today.

Here are some five intriguing forwards who don’t seem “sexy” at first glance but could help the Sabres to the sought-after Stanley Cup. 

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After being named the 13th captain in Buffalo Sabres history, Jason Pominville has played an important role over his seven-year career with the Sabres.

Pominville’s on-ice vision and offensive creativity are a few reasons why he’s one of the most consistent players each year.

Bleacher Report talked with Pominville on the following topics:



“It means a lot to be the captain of the Sabres. It’s a huge honor to represent the organization both on and off the ice.”

“There’s a tremendous amount of history surrounding the Sabres, and to wear the “C” with pride means the world to me.”


Goal/game never to forget

“The overtime goal against the Ottawa Senators in Game 5 in 2006 to send our club to the Eastern Conference Finals to face the Carolina Hurricanes.

“As a team, though, Danny Briere’s overtime goal in Game 6 against the Hurricanes to force Game 7 was an emotion that was indescribable and will forever be one of the greatest moments I have experienced in hockey.”


Opening this season in Europe

“It was a good experience. It was a bonding experience that benefited our club. The trip helped us build chemistry and we won both games so it made it even more enjoyable.”


Lindy Ruff

“Lindy is an honest coach. He tries to get the best out of his players each game and pushes his players to get better.”

“His communication has always been great with his players, which is the reason why he has been coaching in the league for so long. His coaching style has helped his players and the organization to thrive each season.”


Growing up in Quebec

“I grew up in the Montreal area, so there was hockey everywhere. With my father being an ex-professional hockey player, I was always a part of hockey.”

“Montreal is one of the biggest hockey markets in the world and it was fun to follow the Canadiens growing up.”


Best team the Sabres have faced this season

“The best is the Bruins. They are the defending champions and are strong at every position.”


Eastern Conference race

“Just about every team is in contention to make the playoffs in the East. Our club is battling for a playoff spot.”

“A team can climb quickly up the standings if they get on a winning streak. It’s going to be a battle from here on.”


Buffalo as a hockey town

“We have awesome fans in Buffalo. It’s a great market for hockey. Fans know the game and enjoy watching our organization play.”

“We get a lot of support from the fans throughout the season. We’re popular throughout the city and it’s a fun place to play.”

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We’re at the midway point of the season, and it’s time for NHL teams to either make a move for the playoffs or sell off some assets that aren’t fitting.

The Buffalo Sabres have Ryan Miller, a world-class goaltender whose confidence has been bruised after getting run in the crease, but lack a true number one center. The Anaheim Ducks have a surplus of top-flight forwards but lack a Top 10 goaltender.

Clearly there can be a deal of some sort struck here. I wouldn’t suggest a straight Miller-for-Getzlaf or Miller-for-Ryan trade, but both lineups could use more of a strike.

I think a blockbuster, multiplayer deal would change the face of both teams and provide a shock wave to an otherwise lackluster NHL season. And doing it during NFL playoff time would grab some publicity when the NHL is being ignored.

First, let’s look at Buffalo.

The Sabres haven’t had a single more important player to their lineup than Miller, since Dominik Hasek took the team to the Stanley Cup. He was even more important to the sport of hockey when he carried Team USA to a surprise silver medal at the Olympics in Vancouver.

Now, until Jhonas Enroth emerged as a more-than-capable starter, this would’ve been seen as an impossibility. But Enroth seems to have arrived.

Combine that with Miller lacking confidence in his team since his concussion (caused by Milan Lucic), and the fact that his wife (Noureen DeWulf) is an actress who lives and works in Southern California, and it makes sense.

The Sabres also have a deep need for a top center. Their centers include Derek Roy, Cody McCormick, Paul Gaustad and Luke Adam. At best, Derek Roy is a low-level second center, and Adam is a third.

Don’t forget that their wings include Thomas Vanek, Jason Pominville, Brad Boyes, Ville Leino, Drew Stafford,  Jochen Hecht, Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis. The talents of these fine wings are being wasted.

Only two of them, Vanek and Pominville, are having solid seasons, and that can most likely be attributed to Vanek putting together a complete game for the first time in his career.

Then you look at the Ducks. They have a stockpile of outstanding centers. Bobby Ryan and Ryan Getzlaf have both been mentioned in rumors and are said to be available. Talents like those at the center position don’t become available very often.

Vice versa, the Ducks lack talent in the crease. After a few solid seasons by Jonas Hiller, he now seems to have regressed to mediocrity. He’s backed up at the moment by journeyman Jeff Deslauriers, as the Ducks have also used Dan Ellis to try and find some traction at the position.

Both of these teams are clearly out of the playoffs, with the Sabres sitting 11th in the East and the Ducks at 14th.

The Ducks clearly have the rougher row to hoe. As usual, the West is deeper throughout the conference, so would it be worth it for them? The Sabres could absolutely make an immediate push with an upgrade at the center position, especially with the teams ahead of them struggling—teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Toronto, and the upstart Winnipeg Jets.

I would have to suspect that most of the Sabres team, with the exception of Vanek and Tyler Myers, are available. They both have to be considered franchise cornerstones, especially Myers.

That would still provide some flexibility on their part. Buffalo even has players like Zack Kassian, T.J. Brennan and Drew Scheistel down in Rochester, who could either be included or called up.

From the Ducks’ perspective, they can look at it either as a chance to make a push, or rebuild. They have some solid pieces, but they also have players like Teemu Selanne, Jason Blake and Saku Koivu, who are either past their prime or approaching that area.

May I propose a trade? Let’s say the Ducks get Ryan Miller, Derek Roy and Drew Stafford. That gives them a franchise goaltender, a second-line center and the unrealized potential of Drew Stafford.

In turn, the Sabres would receive Ryan Getzlaf, Niklas Hagman, Dan Ellis and a second-round pick. It’s difficult to say that Getzlaf is equal to Miller, so I’ll throw in a second-round pick. Getzlaf makes Vanek an elite goal scorer as soon as he dons the Sabres sweater.

Now is the time to make a trade—especially for the Sabres—before the season slips away.

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It is that time of the year again and the trade rumors are swirling. The next victim of the trade buzz happens to be Derek Roy. Roy has caught some bad luck, as he has battled through some injuries in an attempt to find his game again. Roy is being shopped, according to some very credible sources in the hockey media.

Here is an excerpt from the Buffalo News that contains some more information on Roy’s trade status.

Now there’s this: Roy is the hottest name in the rumor mill if the Sabres make a trade.

There are all kinds of rumors out there, most of them from little-known websites lacking much credibility.

But it’s quite a bit different when your name gets mentioned on “Hockey Night in Canada.”

Roy getting dangled was the word on Saturday night’s telecast from longtime HNIC reporter Elliotte Friedman and again in his weekly “30 Thoughts” column posted Monday on the network’s website.

“It’s fine. It’s whatever people say,” Roy said. “You can’t worry about it and do anything about it. You have to go out and play your game. Everyone here is trying to do their job, whether it’s stopping the puck, playing defense and scoring goals. We all have to do our part.

“[Sabres management] pieced together a puzzle where they thought everybody was going to do their job and play hard and that’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to piece this puzzle together and work with each other.”

The Anaheim Ducks are believed to have looked at both Roy and Drew Stafford when General Manager Bob Murray was in town in late November. Roy’s name is getting more attention lately because his contract has only one more year to run at a salary of $5.5 million but a reasonable cap hit of just $4 million.

This situation is interesting. The Buffalo Sabres are a team that has talented players like Roy, Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller and various others.

However, if Roy were to be dealt, where would he go? When reading that Anaheim was interested in Roy and Stafford, you can assume that Bobby Ryan would likely be involved in the trade.

It would address Anaheim’s requirement of receiving a core player, and it would free up some cap space. However I would expect that other teams would have some interest in Roy.

Roy is a very good player who just hasn’t found his groove after battling injuries. When you miss significant amounts of time and break your rhythm  it can be difficult to hit your stride.

Roy’s career highs include 81 points and 32 goals, though typically, he is about a 60 to 65 points guy. Roy should generate a lot of interest for a team that is looking for a No. 2 center. His cap hit is lower than most, and he has a high ceiling.

It will be interesting to see how quickly things develop in Buffalo as the trade deadline approaches.


Tom Urtz, Jr. is an NHL featured columnist. For NHL news, updates and alerts about players:

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