“Only Fallout Boy Can Save Buffalo Now”
Buffalo’s horrendous performance against Toronto last night saw the clubs shocking start to the season placed squarely in the spotlight.
With just 11 goals in 10 games (4 of which came in a shoot out victory over Carolina), the Sabres have been shut out four times in their past six games and are 0 for 32 on the power play.
With the clubs not so secret pursuit of Connor McDavid, it’s no surprise to see them propping up the NHL again – but the situation is likely to get worse before it gets better.
Buffalo managed just 10 shots against Toronto, a team not exactly known for its defensive fortitude, and former first line centre Cody Hodgson has been relegated to the fourth line. On Thursday they face Boston, after which they need to make a decision on Sam Reinhart – one can only hope sense prevails and they send him back to Kootenay.
For Reinhart, a return to the CHL is the best course of action – he’s looked physically outmatched too often and keeping him around a losing team will do little for his development. But the Sabres roster is likely to see further losses before the seasons is over.
Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford, the clubs leading scorer with 4 points (all assists) are both unrestricted free agents in the summer – as are defencemen Andrej Meszaros and Andrei Benoit.
Netminders Michal Neuvirth, one of the few who could hold his head high after the Maple Leafs debacle, and Jhonas Enroth are also in the final year of their current deals.
You would assume all six might attract at least some interest as the deadline approaches and contenders look to bolster their rosters.
Perhaps someone takes a punt on Tyler Myers, and meets the stiff asking price the organisation has apparently set for their first round pick in 2008.
The there is Hodgson, whose slide down the depth chart is concerning. With a single goal and 2 points through the Sabres opening 10 games, the 24-year old seems a long way shy of the form that saw him post a career best 20 goals and 44 points last season.
If the forward continues to struggle, do Buffalo also consider moving the former Brampton Battalion centre? It’s hard to believe Hodgson wouldn’t generate some interest around the league still, despite difficulties in Vancouver and Buffalo.
It’s unlikely GM Tim Murray moves all of these players; but on a roster woefully thin on legitimate NHL talent right now, losing even a couple puts the Sabres even further behind.
Whilst that may be something Sabres fans can take on the chin for this season, given that the club has essentially revealed its hand with every Connor McDavid ‘promotion’ they can get away with, what happens once the club has finished at the draft table next summer?
Assuming the master plan comes off and McDavid becomes a member of the Sabres, who is he going to play with exactly?
Matt Moulson is a solid goal scorer and Brian Gionta a crafty veteran (though one on the back nine of his career). Reinhart, Zemgus Girgensons, Nikita Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen are good prospects. But this isn’t the Penguins circa 2005 when Crosby joined – there is no Malkin, no Fleury, no Letang in the system, and the Sabres veterans aren’t exactly in the same place Sergei Gonchar and Mark Recchi were then – both of whom helped but Pittsburgh back on to the path to glory.
Buffalo’s best hope is most likely to follow the New York Islanders – with fans on Long Island now seeing the fruits several years disappointment came to bear, as John Tavares leads a team built largely at the draft.
With 72 games still to go this season however, it’s an awfully long road ahead for Buffalo fans – one they are only just starting down.