After another unsuccessful season for the Buffalo Sabres, the team will need to make more changes headed into the 2012-2013 NHL season.

One way to begin the transformation in their team is to begin with their free agents. Offensively, the only unrestricted free agents they have are Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes. If the Sabres want to improve next season, they need to move on from both of these players.

Here's why.

Let's start with Hecht. First, he's going to be 35 years old this upcoming season. If that's not enough of a reason to move on from him, maybe the severe concussion he suffered last season would be. That concussion that he suffered in January caused him to miss the rest of the season.

Injury aside, I wouldn't want Hecht back even if he was healthy. During the 2011-2012 season, when Hecht played in 67 games he only totaled 12 goals and 17 assists good for 29 points. This was coming off a 2010 year where Hecht notched 21 goals. 

With his numbers declining and coming off a serious injury, Hecht isn't even worth a look to come back for the Sabres. Move on and look for a younger, versatile player.

As for Brad Boyes, the Sabres should run the other way. After trading for him at the end of the 2010-2011 season from the St. Louis Blues, Boyes totaled five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 21 games.

The 2011-2012 season is another story. Boyes finished the year with eight goals and 15 assists for 23 points in 65 games. That's pathetic.

For a guy who has scored 25 goals or more in three years of his career, to total eight goals in one season is a disgrace. Although some people may blame Lindy Ruff's system for preventing goal scorers from flourishing in Buffalo, goal scorers will show up at some point during the season.

Boyes was paid $4 million for this past season and didn't earn a single dollar of it. Move on from him before he takes more of your money.

Darcy Regier needs to find players that fit Ruff's system and that can flourish playing Buffalo Sabres hockey.

Sticking with players that have been unsuccessful and useless the last year or two would be a grave mistake.

At this point, the Sabres can't afford any more of those.

 

Follow @JasonDavisBR on Twitter. 

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The Buffalo Sabres were supposed to be an immediate playoff team after Terry Pegula took over last year. Unfortunately, it was more of the same for Sabres fans as the team missed the playoffs again in the 2011-2012 season.

Since the Sabres committed a great deal of money last season to Ville Leino and signing Drew Stafford to an extension, the Sabres would be smart to make moves throughout the NHL Draft.

With the skill of some of the top prospects, the Sabres can acquire a top-line center through the draft. In order to acquire a game-changing player, the Sabres should trade both their 12th and 21st picks in the first round and try and find a taker with a pick in the top five.

This way, the Sabres can acquire the best center in the draft, Mikhail Grigorenko from Quebec. Grigorenko, 18, succeeded in his first taste of North American hockey last season.

In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Grigorenko totaled 40 goals and 45 assists in just 59 games. He had the best season of any rookie in the league and finished in the top eight in scoring even though he played nine fewer games than everyone else.

Grigorenko has great height and size as well. He weighs in at just over 200 pounds and has a physical 6'3" frame to go along with that.

Another positive for Grigorenko is his solid, quick hands. He is able to move the puck very fluidly and with great vision finds his teammates for goal-scoring opportunities. 

The only knock against Grigorenko is his motivation. There are times where his game disappears and he doesn't take part in the action as much as he should. As a young kid, that can happen from time to and nothing a good leader wouldn't be able to improve.

While it is a stretch to assume a team would trade down in the first round, two middle-of-the-round picks would be enticing.

The Sabres, needing a point-per-game center, would be smart to make a deal like this if they could find a suitor. If not, there are two other top centers in the top 10 in Alex Galchenyuk and Radek Faksa.

While both of those centers are very skillful, they don't have the talent that Grigorenko possesses. Galchenyuk totaled 31 goals and 52 assists in 68 games in the Ontario Hockey League while Faksa totaled 29 goals and 37 points, in the OHL as well.

Either way, the Sabres should find a way to land one of these point-per-game centers. In this day and age of the NHL, that is a must.

The Sabres are faced with a big risk if they follow this path. Get it right and start the foundation of a long-term playoff run. Get it wrong and the loss of the two first-round picks could hurt for years to come.

I think it's time to take the risk, Darcy. 

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Ever since Daniel Briere and Chris Drury departed, the Sabres have been searching for a No. 1 center. Since they haven't been able to find one, they have suffered offensively and in the faceoff circle. 

After a phenomenal second half last season, Tyler Ennis began to emerge as a potential candidate. If the Sabres want to build a playoff team, a top center is the biggest need.

Does Ennis fit the bill?

Once he fully healed from his injuries, Ennis totaled 34 points in 48 games last season. During the last 26 games of the season, Ennis recorded 11 goals and 16 assists, totaling 27 points. That's over a point per game which is what a team's No. 1 center should be able to give you.

Other No. 1 centers in the league include Joe Thornton of the San Jose Sharks and Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators.

Ennis also finished the last 26 games with a plus/minus rating of 12. Very solid numbers to build off of. 

Many people looked at Ennis' 2010-11 season as a decent start, but no one pictured him as a No. 1 center, considering the fact he played left wing. He seemed to improve when he played center as opposed to his numbers at left wing.

If the numbers he totaled in his shortened 2011-12 season were averaged out throughout a full season, he would have finished with 25 goals and 32 points, totaling 57 points.

While that isn't a point per game, Ennis is only 22 years old and still has room to improve.

I believe Ennis would thrive on the top line with Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. His ability to attack the zone and create opportunities for the Sabres top goal scorers would lead to an increase in all of their play.

While his height and size may be an issue, Sabres fans should be reminded of Daniel Briere's lack in those areas and how he still manages to succeed in the NHL. 

Briere is 5'10" and 179 pounds while Ennis checks in at 5'9" and 157 pounds. While Ennis most likely won't add any height, he has stated he wants to add weight in the offseason to become more of a force on the boards. 

Adding the weight would make him a mirror image of Briere and since he posted better numbers in his first two full seasons than Briere did, the Sabres may have found a key piece to their offense.

Since the Sabres whiffed on acquiring a top line center last offseason (Ville Leino), they should be weary to throw money at another one this year, especially because there are no top line centers available.

With Ennis growing and maturing, he should be given the opportunity to take over as the Sabres top line center and see how he reacts to working with the team's best offensive players.

He posted ridiculous numbers the last 26 games of the season, and as a result, the Sabres were one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

After all, it's been five years since Briere and Drury, what do the Sabres have to lose?

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After another unsuccessful run to the playoffs, the Sabres need to make changes to the core of their team. 

Trading Derek Roy would be a start.

There's numerous reasons why this would be beneficial, but there are three main points that need to be addressed.

 

His Numbers are Falling

This is the biggest reason to make the move. Each of his last three full seasons (2008, 2009, 2011), Roy's numbers have dropped. The biggest drop was seen this past season when he fell from 69 points in 2009 to 44 points in 2011 (he missed most of 2010 with an injury). In addition, he was a minus-seven this year while he was on the ice.

With Derek Roy being 29 years old, his statistical numbers should not be seeing such a drop at this point in his career.

His numbers peaked in the 2007-08 season when he was a point-per-game center, and they have dipped ever since. Building a team around a player like Roy will not help the Sabres build a successful team for years to come.

 

He Isn't a Leader

After the departure of Briere, Drury and Campbell, the Sabres were left without a real captain. Some people believed that Roy should/could step up and become a leader after learning from the core players that had moved on. They were wrong.

 

Roy has consistently been spotted partying during the season along with not holding players accountable for their mistakes.

A good leader will place the game above everything else in life and make sure his teammates are doing the same. Accountability is one major asset of a leader, and Roy has always lacked that in his game.

 

There's Still Some Value

As seen in the Dustin Penner trade last season, there's still value for a forward/center like Roy. Since he was a point-per-game center at one point, some teams may believe that a change of scenery will return him to his old style of play.

While I don't believe that is the case, it did happen with Dustin Penner. He was a 28-year-old winger last season when the Oilers moved him to the Los Angeles Kings. After another disappointing season for the winger, the Kings took a chance on him by moving a first- and third-round pick along with Colton Teubert to the Oilers for Penner. Teubert, a defenseman, was the 13th overall pick in the 2008 draft.

Penner was dealt on February 28th and was owed $4.25 million by the Oilers that season.

With Roy being a potential No. 2 center for a team and being owed $4 million per season, I could see a team moving a second, third- or fourth-round pick and a prospect such as Teubert to acquire Roy.

For the Sabres, who are trying to build a young, physical team that can make the playoffs year after year, making a trade like this could really help.

With the emergence of Ennis and acquisition of Hodgson, the Sabres already have two centers ready to play. Leino can play the position as well if need be. That leaves only the fourth-line center to fill heading into next season.  

Although some fans still prefer to keep Roy, losing his 44 points wouldn't hurt that much at all.

 

Follow me on twitter @JasonDavisBR. 

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As the playoffs drag on, all that Buffalo Sabre fans can do is speculate about next season. Let's do just that and speculate a different scenario before the playoffs end.

I have said in previous articles that Darcy Regier should either get a Ryan Getzlaf or Patrick Kane or try to grab a young goalie and trade Miller for a top-flight center. But what if instead, the team decides to mostly stand pat?

That would mean that Hodgson would be their first-line center, Roy on the second line, Ennis at the three spot and McCormick rounding it out.

If Hodgson is as good as advertised, then I'll take that. Roy is currently on the second line, but I have a very strong feeling he'll be dealt.

The Ennis line should be set in stone. His wingers, Foligno and Stafford, were on fire. Stafford finally showed why he was a first-round draft pick. 

You could have Vanek and Pominville flanking Hodgson. Leino can slot back at wing, where he slots so much better across from Gerbe on either side of Roy. Then you have Kaleta-McCormick-Ellis on the checking line with the current roster.

The only starter from last year that is left off the list is Brad Boyes, who I really don't believe will be retained unless he gets moved off the checking line, where his Roy-like talents were vastly marginalized.

Now, I don't believe Lindy Ruff is a problem, and that's why Roy will probably be dealt. But for now, that's how the forward lines stand for me. It's a very solid group as long as Hodgson can play the role of the top center. If he can ignite Vanek, then it's more than worth it. 

On defense, there appear to be eight usable pieces, without including Brennan, for six spots. Myers, Regehr, and Ehrhoff are inked in already.

That leaves, Leopold, Sekera, Weber, McNabb, and Sulzer. Sulzer is a UFA, so, as well as he played during the playoff push, his services aren't entirely necessary. There have been whispers of Sekera being expendable. Either way, the defensive pieces look more than adequate. 

Then they have Miller on the back end. He's the simplest piece, and it seems that we won't have a repeat of what happened last year with him.

Can this be the team? Probably not.

As I said earlier, Roy is penciled in right now, but I believe he's gone. I'm not really sold on Gerbe being an everyday player. His size doesn't differ much from Ennis, but Tyler has a far superior skill set.

I don't know how much it will cost to sign Ennis, but I believe it will leave quite a bit of leftover cash to sign a second-line winger.

Still, until free agency hits and the front office makes any possible trades, it's worth taking a look at the pieces Buffalo already has in place.

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Jarome Iginla has been the subject of trade rumors for the past year. Due to the mediocre play of the Calgary Flames over the last few years, the team may look to move Iginla heading into the 2012-13 NHL season.

The Flames haven't made the playoffs since 2009 and haven't made it past the first round since 2004. Many people think it's time for the Flames to turn the page on Iginla and look to acquire assets to build around.

If the Flames decide to move Iginla, the Sabres should make a strong push for him and here's why.


Iginla's a Goal-Scorer

Over the last 11 years, Iginla has scored at least 30 goals per season. During eight of those years, Iginla scored 35 goals or more. In addition, Iginla has recorded more than one point per game in nine of the eleven years. In the other two years (2005-06 and 2011-12), he managed to total 67 points each season.

While Iginla may not be able to produce 70-80 points a season turning 35 in July, even 55-60 points a season will help the Sabres produce offensively.


Iginla Has Playoff/Stanley Cup Experience 

The Flames have been in the playoffs in five of the last eight seasons. In 2004, Iginla was the main part of the Flames run to the Stanley Cup where they lost in Game 7 to the Tampa Bay Lightning

Iginla has the playoff experience the Sabres need and can fill the leadership role vacated by Paul Gaustad when he was traded last season.

An Iginla trade would fill another hole as well. The Sabres have always looked to fill Daniel Briere's playoff scoring since he left via free agency. In 54 career playoff games for Iginla, he has recorded 49 points, including 28 goals. A point-per-game scorer in Iginla would help the Sabres poor offensive scoring over their last few playoff games.

 

Iginla Can Play Center 

Although the Sabres have Cody Hogdson and Derek Roy, they need an established leader and center. Derek Roy may be moved this offseason, and the Sabres shouldn't throw Hodgson into the No. 1 center role.

While his faceoff percentage is only 52 percent over the last two seasons, Iginla's presence on the ice will help propel the Sabres into the Stanley Cup contenders.

Iginla is due to make seven million dollars during the 2012-13 season. With Jochen Hecht and Brad Boyes salary of 7.525 million dollars coming off the books, acquiring Iginla wouldn't be an issue with the salary cap.

In return, the Sabres could move Drew Stafford along with a defensive prospect or draft pick. The Sabres have numerous forwards, such as Foligno, Ellis, Ennis, etc, who can replace Stafford, but acquiring Iginla would help the Sabres find the No. 1 center they have been looking for.

Since Iginla is a free agent after next season, the Sabres could look to extend him as well and keep him around for a few more years if they so choose.

If the Sabres plan to be Stanley Cup contenders, they need to acquire a No. 1, point-per-game center.

It would be tough to acquire a better player than Iginla. Time to make it happen, Darcy. 

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The Buffalo Sabres find themselves in a very auspicious and unfamiliar position. They have a surplus of cap money, two first-round draft picks, and a team that needs one or two pieces to make a run at the cup.

Unfortunately, the most pressing need for the Sabres is a No. 1 or 1a center, and the free agent market is very thin. They do, however, have money, picks, and players. It's now up to general manager Darcy Regier to turn those advantages into the final pieces.

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