Buffalo Sabres At Crossroads As Deadline Approaches

The short-term actions of the Buffalo Sabres will have significant long-term ramifications for the future of the franchise. In typical Sabres fashion, the team has won three games in a row to give  fans just enough hope to not lose faith in the season. The squad’s performance over the next five games may play a significant role in how GM Darcy Regier approaches the NHL Trade Deadline. This Tweet sums up the current situation perfectly.

What if the Sabres Continue Winning?

Buffalo Sabre Jordan Leopold - Photo by Andy Martin Jr
Buffalo Sabre Jordan Leopold – Photo by Andy Martin Jr

It should be expected win or lose down the stretch, that the Sabres strategy will be focused on the long-term success of the organization. With that being said, don’t expect the team to ship out any prospects or draft picks for a rental player. However, if the Sabres continue winning it could change how they approach the deadline in regards to their own potential rental players. Veterans such as Jochen Hecht, John Scott, Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold are all slated to be unrestricted free agents at the season’s end. If the Sabres are on the cusp of a playoff spot, it’ll be less likely for these players to be moved for what would likely be middle-to-late round draft picks and/or B-level prospects.

The more intriguing aspect to this scenario would be what could the team possibly add. Look for the team to make a true “hockey trade” (where each team involved seems to improve their respective roster) similar to the Cody Hodgson-Zack Kassian trade of a year ago. A player who could benefit from a new change of scenery who has been linked to trade rumors is Drew Stafford. A fascinating trading partner could be the San Jose Sharks. Ryan Clowe has struggled mightily this season and has yet to even record a goal. He like Stafford, could also use a fresh start. Keep in mind, this is merely an example, and such a trade hasn’t appeared to be discussed in any capacity.

What if the Sabres Lose Down the Stretch?

The obvious consequence of the team faulting down the stretch is the increased likelihood of dealing away the aforementioned UFAs to be. The more interesting facet to this scenario is what could happen to some of the team’s so called core players. Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller will all be UFAs after the 2013-2014 season, and have been mentioned in trade rumors. A number of fans have been clamoring for a major shake up. However given the team’s recent history, don’t expect  to see a fires ale as the video below suggests. The Sabres have always remained more conservative rather than reactionary. Then again, many never expected to see Lindy Ruff get fired.

How Will the Stretch Run Impact the Head Coach Position?

How the team performs will also have serious ramifications on the team’s personell decisions beyond the roster. Interim head coach Ron Rolston has been given a prime opportunity to land a  full-time NHL head coaching job as this season is a clear audition to land the position permanently. If the team can claw their way to a playoff spot, the former Rochester Americans coach will give the organization a lot to think about. If the team stumbles through the rest of the season, it’s all but a foregone conclusion Rolston won’t return behind the Sabres bench.

The actions of the franchise will also influence who they could bring in from the outside. Any roster moves (whether selling or buying) will weigh in on the decision process of the team’s potential coach when he mulls over a contract offer. Also, the team’s play on the ice could factor in. If the team shows promise down the stretch, this will make it more likely to attract top coaching candidates such as Patrick Roy.patrick roy

How Will the Stretch Run Impact the GM Position?

With Ruff already given the boot, Regier could be the next one on the chopping block. If the team doesn’t improve or if he doesn’t appear to be at least stirring the ship in the right direction, he could be the next to go. Given that he is on the hot seat, this could influence his decision making at the deadline. Maybe Regier will be more aggressive than typical, knowing that his job is on the line.

Like the head coaching position, the teams transactions and performance could impact the caliber of talent they can bring in for the GM position. Maybe Regier will be advised not to make any major deals given that his future is in jeopardy. The team’s biggest projects may be saved for the new man in charge.

How do you see things transpiring down the stretch? What would you like to see happen?