After yesterday's season-ending news conference (via sabres.com), the Buffalo Sabres have given fans more questions than answers. 

How did Darcy Regier keep his job? Will Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek be wearing Sabres uniforms next year? Will Ron Rolston remain as head coach? How far away do they think they are?

These are not easy questions to answer, although the answers to the last two can be inferred from the presser. 

The team did improve in the standings under Rolston's tutelage, but the fact remains that the defensive and neutral zones were no better under him than they were under Lindy Ruff. When the playoffs were actually within the team's grasp, they lost two games in a row in embarrassing fashion, falling 4-1 to the Winnipeg Jets and 5-1 to the Montreal Canadiens

Simply put, Rolston should not be the team's coach next season.

The delay in his status likely means that the team wants to keep him on as their AHL coach, not their NHL coach. The conversations Regier was referring to are likely discussions concerning Rolston's willingness to move back down to Rochester, and likely not about Rolston's vision for the Sabres.

The other question that may have been answered is how far away the Sabres think they are.

Regier used the word "suffering" a few times, something the local media jumped on immediately.

But when you take a step back and look at how things have unfolded, one has to think that the management team doesn't think they're far from competing at an elite level. If they thought they were, Regier wouldn't have been at that press conference. 

How realistic that view is remains to be seen.

The future could be extremely bright. There are a ton of young, seemingly NHL-ready prospects with undeniable talent in the organization.

Mikhail Grigorenko asserted himself more in the offensive zone upon his return from the QMJHL. Joel Armia helped lead his team to the Finnish Elite League Championship last week. Mark Pysyk looked great in his 19 games. Johan Larsson has been excellent in Rochester, playing on a line with a much-improved Zemgus Girgensons

Prospects are unproven, and are anything but a sure thing, but there are guys proving themselves at the NHL level too.

Cody Hodgson has made Darcy look like a genius, and likely would have scored north of 70 points in a full season. Mike Weber solidified himself as a top-four blue liner. Marcus Foligno struggled in the goal column, but showcased his grit and creativity throughout the season. 

What it comes down to is the NHL is a fluid league. Teams go from good to bad and vice-versa every year. Look at the rise of the Canadiens, Anaheim Ducks and New York Islanders and the fall of the Phoenix Coyotes, New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers this season. Sometimes all it takes is the right piece. 

This brings us to the first two questions posed. It seems Darcy still has his job for two reasons: The top brass feels the team isn't primed to be a bottom-feeder again next season and they want Darcy in charge of unloading one or both of Miller and Vanek

It seems to be almost a foregone conclusion that one of the two are gone.

After hearing Vanek's scrum on locker clean-out day, if Miller goes, the odds of Vanek being shopped increase exponentially. So while Sabres fans would see two of their three franchise cornerstones leave, the return on the two would be the equivalent of a small fortune. 

Between the potential draft picks, blue chip prospect(s), and current roster players, the trade of those two may be the shake-up this team needs. 

But as it stands right now, the Sabres will sit and watch while the greatest two months in sports commences tonight. After learning they will pick eighth in June's draft, and possibly own another pick in the top-20 depending on the Minnesota Wild, they can go to work framing their new plan for the Stanley Cup. With no roster moves being allowed until after the Cup Finals, which could last until June 28, Sabres fans could be in for a whirlwind couple of hours as June ends. 

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With their loss last weekend to the New York Rangers, the Buffalo Sabres have missed the NHL playoffs for the second year in a row despite another late-season charge. As a result, they now find themselves likely beyond the promised land of a top-five draft pick as well. 

Many questions will swirl around the Sabres this offseason, from whether or not Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek will be wearing blue and gold next season to the highly anticipated—potential—buyout of Ville Leino. 

Here's an early look at the potential moves and opening night roster for the Sabres for the 2013-2014 season. 

 

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With the emotional shootout victory last night in Boston, the Buffalo Sabres moved within two points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, leading their fans to ask a familiar question: Can they sneak into the playoffs?

Two seasons ago, that answer was yes, and the Sabres even ended up in seventh place before losing their first-round series to the Philadelphia Flyers in seven games. 

Last season they were unable to get over the hump after a torrid February and March, leaving them on the outside looking in. 

Which version of the story will it be this season?

While two points are certainly able to be made up over four games, there are two major non-personnel hurdles the Sabres need to get over before they can find themselves in the postseason. 

First, the Sabres have the most games in the Eastern Conference, as of this morning, at 44. The New York Rangers, who currently sit in eighth place, have played 42 games, and the Winnipeg Jets, currently in ninth place, have played 43 games. Both teams play tonight, with the Rangers playing the last place Florida Panthers and the Jets playing the struggling Carolina Hurricanes. Assuming the Rangers or Jets win, the Sabres are now four points behind, with the Rangers potentially able to pad that to six points when they even up their games played. 

One of those games for the Rangers is against the Sabres on Friday in Buffalo. If the Rangers win tonight against the Panthers and beat the Sabres on Friday, the Sabres are eliminated. 

They would be out due to their second hurdle: Regulation and overtime wins (ROW). 

The Sabres have 13 ROW, which are now the first tiebreaker for the playoffs. Only Florida (10) has fewer than the Sabres, and the New Jersey Devils are tied with Buffalo at 13. 

This is the worst possible situation for any potential playoff team, because it means the Sabres need to add one point to any total they need to make the playoffs. So while the math seemingly shows two points right now, because the Rangers (17) and the Jets (20) have an insurmountable lead in ROW, the Sabres are effectively three points out today. 

That means a win by the Rangers or Jets tonight puts the Sabres effectively five points out of the playoffs and likely on the outside looking in for the second year in a row. 

So, while the Sabres have played well the past month, they may not have played well enough to get themselves into the playoffs. 

Given the losses of Robyn Regehr, Jordan Leopold and Jason Pominville to trades and Tyler Myers, Ville Leino and Thomas Vanek to injuries, this is not unexpected, but the run has been nice nonetheless. This run, with those losses, has certainly given credence to the argument that Ron Rolston deserves the interim tag to be removed, but that may depend on the fate of Darcy Regier, which postpones that another debate for another day. 

Regardless, the Sabres have decided to make it interesting for the third year in a row. The only question that remains is whether or not it was worth it for the long run. 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.

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With Steve Ott sharing his opinion on the subject today, it begs the question: Should Buffalo Sabres fans be booing?

Ott's opinion has been widely circulated (via TSN.ca) and has certainly caused a lot of internal debate amongst Sabres fans. He makes some good points, yet there are plenty of counterarguments available as well. 

So what's the right answer here? That's hard to determine in this case for a number of reasons.

First and foremost, the Sabres have been either inconsistent or bad for most of the season.

They won the New Jersey game in spite of themselves on Sunday, no matter how close the game was on the scoreboard. They gave up both a power-play and (another) short-handed goal and were only in the game due to the play of Ryan Miller. So despite the close game on the scoreboard, there was a lot to be unhappy with. 

Secondly, the Sabres are clearly in some level of a rebuild. They are now officially the youngest team in the NHL and one can assume they'll only get younger at the end of the year, with Jochen Hecht most certainly on his way out in addition to the potential departures of Drew Stafford, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller.

Booing Brian Flynn or Mark Pysyk isn't really "going to the source." 

Sure, there are plenty of underachievers on the team right now. Tyler Myers and Drew Stafford lead that list in bold font, but there are guys that have played with tons of heart, like Ott and Mike Weber.

Simply stated, Ott's comments that the booing is not helping makes a lot of sense from the young guys' prospective.

Lastly, there are a lot of frustrating things that continue to happen despite the struggles the team has had over the past few months. 

How Jochen Hecht plays almost 17 minutes Sunday night is beyond anyone who has watched this team's comprehension anymore. There was some excuse when Lindy Ruff was still around because he was clearly a favorite of his for years, but one would think that a new coach with a new perspective would fix this. Sure, he has good games, but he's useless five times more than he's helpful.

Added to Ron Rolston's cavalier attitude toward sitting guys like Marcus Foligno in the past or playing Cody Hodgson with John Scott and Patrick Kaleta, it makes absolutely no sense. 

Basically, despite all the changes in personnel—both behind the bench and the players on the ice—it seems like not much has changed in the attitude of the team.

So where does this leave us?

Essentially, fans have every right to boo, but that's different from whether they should be booing. Yes, this season has not gone well and, yes, this team has been one of the most underachieving groups we may ever see, but does that mean booing is necessary?

It certainly is at some junctures, but the constant booing may be doing more harm than good.

The power play sucks. The penalty kill sucks. The defensive zone coverage has not gotten much better. The breakouts are sloppy and forced. However, is it time the fans just come to terms with that and let the players play?

Honestly, I don't know the answer. I hear both sides on this and want to be able to take a side, but I just cannot.

As the yearly "let's make a frantic playoff push" seems to have commenced, it may be actually frustrating the fans even more due to the obvious fact that this team is not presently likely to win a playoff series, let alone the Stanley Cup. The fans may be warmer to the idea of a top draft pick than a first-round exit from the playoffs, and there's a lot of logic in that. 

Regardless, the booing will continue, the players will continue to get upset and the only way to end the problem is for the team to start winning. And not the way it did Sunday. 

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The Buffalo Sabres entered a new phase yesterday after their captain Jason Pominville was traded to the Minnesota Wild

As the Sabres begin to look more and more like the Rochester Americans, it means that not only are the young players going to get more responsibility but that the Sabres are likely to miss the playoffs for the second year in a row. 

With three pieces leaving in the past few days, what were the positives and negatives for the Sabres' trade deadline moves?

 

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While the 2013 NHL trade deadline day may have started out fairly slowly, the afternoon saw a flurry of deals take place, including a major trade between the Buffalo Sabres and Minnesota Wild.

After what has been an incredibly frustrating season for the Sabres, they continued to sell off some of their most valuable assets.

Indeed, according to the Associated Press (via the Globe and Mail), the team reached an agreement to send captain Jason Pominville to the Minnesota Wild for a first-round draft selection in a deep 2013 draft, as well as two highly touted prospects and a second-round draft pick in 2014.

With the team struggling to gain any kind of traction in 2013, GM Darcy Regier decided that it was time for him to start rebuilding his team.

Trading Jason Pominville (no easy task for Regier, I'm sure) is a great place to start.

Not only did Regier get two valuable draft selections between the 2013 and 2014 NHL entry drafts, but he also added two excellent prospects in Johan Larsson (who instantly becomes one of the Sabres' best offensive prospects) and Matt Hackett (who becomes the Sabres' top goaltending prospect, according to HockeysFuture.com).

Picking up Hackett also gives Buffalo the flexibility to pull the trigger on dealing Ryan Miller, who has been the face of the Sabres' organization for quite some time now, this offseason.

With Jhonas Enroth showing he's a capable NHL netminder and Hackett being one of the young goalies out there, Buffalo could very well find a way to move Miller at or ahead of the 2013 entry draft for another first-round pick (and some prospects to boot).

Moving Pominville for such a big return at the deadline (with one of those pieces being a good, young goalie) shows why the Sabres should trust in Darcy Regier and allow him to be the one to rebuild this struggling Sabres team.

 

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Three players from the Sabres' everyday team and another who was at least a halftime player, have been dealt. Jason Pominville is really the trade that is starting the changing face of the Buffalo Sabres (sbnation.com).

Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr were really inevitable. Both had expiring contracts and no future with the team. They also had high value as playoff-experienced defencemen. Pulling three second-round picks out of those two players really was a work of art by the embattled Sabres general manager Darcy Regier. But neither was considered part of the core. 

As Wednesday began, Sabres fans watched as there was little to speak of surrounding the core. Then, around 2 p.m., we started to hear whispers of a Pominville to the Wild deal circulating heavily on Twitter. Following that was more Twitterings that Minnesota had pulled two of their young players, Matt Hackett and Johan Larsson, off the ice during practice. 

We finally heard that the deal was Pominville for Hackett and Larsson. Ok, that's relatively even, but not really spectacular. What followed was the addition of a first and second-round pick also packaged for Pominville. It suddenly became a steal. No, we don't know what will come of that, but it's now a big haul for an above-average, but not amazing, player. 

So, the Sabres now have three first-round picks and four second-round picks in the next two drafts. That's some interesting collateral for the offseason. 

Drew Stafford's name circulated around Twitter and he is still a Sabre. Lets not get too worried. He still has two years left after this current year. He's still very tradable in the summer or even next year.

Ryan Miller still has extreme value, but shouldn't really be dealt until another goaltender emerges. Thomas Vanek is interesting. He's probably attractive, but Buffalo may have to eat part of his contract, and he is a bit fragile. Jochen Hecht will be gone after the season, maybe even to retirement. The rest of the team is probably safe. 

I don't think we should expect much from free agency. Aside from mostly average or broken down players, it's a pretty slim crop—except for Nathan Horton. 

I would like to see Regier, depending on draft position, try to move up to get the most promising offensive talent in the draft. He has picks and players. We'll probably also see most young players from Rochester and maybe Mikhail Grigorenko will be back. 

At the moment, Buffalo still has solid trade assets, a stockpile of draft picks and a ton of cap space next year. That could also increase as the offseason progresses. The face of the team is changing and will change even more in the next six months.

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As the time ticks down toward 3 p.m. EST, the anticipation is building to a fever pitch around the potential players on the move at this year's trade deadline. With only two extremely minor deals being made with about two hours to go, one has to question whether or not this will be the dullest deadline for fans in recent history. 

The same can't be said about some of the players involved in the talks, however.

The Buffalo Sabres' captain, Jason Pominville, has been discussed ad nauseum the past few days as a likely trade target for many teams in need of scoring help. The 30-year old winger has tapered off since his torrid start to the shortened season, but is still capable of scoring 30 goals a year. 

Pominville has all but confirmed he submitted a list of eight teams that he would not accept a trade to earlier in the week to Sabres' general manager Darcy Regier. Not surprisingly, the list has not been released, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out some of the teams on there.

I'd bet my first born the Florida Panthers, Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames make an appearance, with the Dallas Stars, New York Islanders and Colorado Avalanche being likely candidates as well. 

Entering the realm of speculation, it seems that Columbus would almost certainly be on the list because all signs point to a deal already being done by now if they weren't. Columbus GM Jarmo Kekalainen has said they are shopping one of their three first-round picks for some scoring help—likely the Los Angeles Kings' from the Jeff Cater trade. 

So, where are the potential landing spots for Pominville? Respected Minnesota Wild writer Michael Russo has said that Wild GM Cliff Fletcher has made at least one call to Regier inquiring about Pominville

Other potential teams, based solely on the need, are the Detroit Red Wings, Los Angeles Kings and the Montreal Canadiens, but it's highly unlikely the Sabres will trade their captain to a division rival. 

Through all the speculation going on right now, there is one thing that is for certain: Pominville's price is high. That may lead other teams to look at the Sabres' second option in Drew Stafford who certainly isn't worth a first-round pick, but could be the next-best option for many of these goal-hungry squads.

Stay tuned, Sabres fans. This could get interesting. 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.

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