Buffalo Sabres: The Rebuild Continues Without the Youth


After a few days of speculation following the Buffalo Sabres‘ home-and-home with the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Sabres have effectively purged most of the youth on its roster this morning, per their official Twitter account. 

The Sabres have sent Rasmus Ristolainen, Johan Larsson and Mikhail Grigorenko to Rochester of the AHL while sending Nikita Zadorov back to London of the OHL

Grigorenko, who was sent down on a conditioning assignment, will be back within 14 days, according to Kevin Oklobzija of The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. Beyond him, it seems Larsson and Ristolainen will be spending most of the remaining season down in the AHL, while Zadorov will remain in the OHL

Up from Rochester to take these now vacant roster spots will likely be Patrick Kaleta, Luke Adam, Brayden McNabb and Alex Sulzer. Kevin Porter and Chad Ruhwedel also may get a shot. 

In essence, the Sabres will go from the youngest team in the NHL to somewhere in the middle of the pack, and the rebuild will be put firmly in the hands of the guys who were pushed out in favor of the youth at the beginning of the season. 

So the question that presents itself is clear: Is this the right move for a rebuilding team?

The word “rebuild” seems to come with the somewhat flawed assumption that any youth who can reasonably play on the NHL roster should be there in favor of guys who likely will not play into the long-term future of the team. While that can be the case, it’s not always the right decision. 

The Buffalo Sabres find themselves in a precarious position moving forward, because Ted Nolan is not a developmental coach. He’s a “get the most out of what you have” coach for sure, but he’s never been known as a developer. 

And let’s be honest: The Sabres aren’t turning it around and making a playoff push with the guys they’re calling up. They actually may be worse with them. 

So these moves seem to tip the Sabres’ hand moving forward. 

First, they definitely are hoping for a top pick in the 2014 Entry Draft. Sam Reinhart is the obvious target, with William Nylander and Leon Draisaitl being considerations if the Sabres were to lose the draft lottery. 

Reinhart, at worst, projects to be a top-six forward. At best, he could be a top-three forward with franchise-changing potential. In other words, he’s an excellent piece in a rebuilding puzzle. 

Second, it seems that Nolan may truly be only an interim coach. This team is not going to compete by playing older guys simply because they’ve been around longer. Sooner or later the reigns need to be turned over to the youngsters stocking the cupboard. 

While that may not necessarily need to happen this season, it has to sooner rather than later. 

A team cannot hope to rebuild using fringe veterans, so these guys will be back, and likely in prominent roles. The only question is when. 

Regardless, expect the Sabres to stay in more games, but a spade is a spade, and a team with this many third-liners is not going to have much success.

And with that, the rebuild forges on, and probably a lot differently than many would have expected. 


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

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