As the days inch closer to what will be a telling offseason for the Buffalo Sabres, the organization has been busy planning a strategy and scouting players for the upcoming 2013 NHL Draft. With this draft class said to be the deepest since the highly touted 2003 crop and the team looking at a rebuilding phase, the time is now for the Blue and Gold to sculpt the future of the franchise.
Quality or Quantity?
As fellow THW columnist Steven Ives boldly states, the Sabres must kick ass at this year’s draft. They’ll have every opportunity to do so as the team holds the 8th, 16th, 38th and 52nd picks. The question now becomes strategy; should the team be agressive and try to acquire one or two of the players at the top of the boards or should they stockpile prospects?
The case can certainly be argued for either approach. Given the depth of the draft, it may be smart to take a more passive approach and draft as many prospects as possible (after all, you’re bound to hit on one of them, right?). However, others argue, what the Sabres are missing is a true elite player (especially if they deal away Thomas Vanek, but more on that later), and those type of players are traditionally found within the top five picks.
Given that the Sabres already have a ton of young players and prospects in their system, they should be aggressive and try to land at least in the top 5. What the team needs is a player with star potential to build around for the next decade. So, now it becomes a matter of how the team can position themselves to get such a player.
When/Should Thomas Vanek & Ryan Miller be Dealt?
In a previous post, I suggested that Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek should be dealt since the team is far off from being a Stanley Cup contender. Not only should it happen this offseason, it should happen before or on draft day. Whether the Sabres are trying to move up in the draft or simply stockpile picks, Vanek and Miller will be great assets for either strategy. The draft should be the centerpiece of the Sabres offseason strategy since the team needs to have its vision set on the long-term future success of the franchise.
Even if the Sabres cannot directly get a top-five pick for Vanek or Miller, they can trade them for assets to acquire such a pick, whether it be lower picks, prospects, roster players or a combination of the three. Also, don’t rule out the possibility of a three-team deal, if GM Darcy Regier can get creative. Lets us the Jason Pominville trade as a benchmark.
One thing is for certain, the rebuild must begin now. The fans have been waiting long enough; there must not be anymore delays.
Obviously, this is dependent upon where the Sabres wind up in the draft. However, even if they hold put at the eight position, there will be some intriguing options. Seth Jones, Nathan Mackinnon and Jonathan Drouin will likely be the top-three picks, so unless Buffalo moves up, they won’t even have a sniff at those players. After that, Alexander Barkov and Valeri Nichushkin are very intriguing picks because they both have professional experience playing in the SM-Liiga and KHL respectively. Additionally, they are both big-bodied skilled forwards which the Sabres need more of. If either one is available when the Sabres go on the clock, they should definitely snatched them up.
Other potential options at the eight spot include defenseman Darnell Nurse and center Sean Monahan. Nurse looks to be a Robyn Regehr type stay-at-home defenseman with more offensive upside. Monahan is a solid two-way player with high hockey IQ. Neither however, appear to have superstar potential. Again, this illustrated the point that the Sabre would be best off to move up the draft board.
What would you like to see the Sabres do at the draft? Who would your ideal pick be?