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2021 Sabres Offseason


ComradeKayAdams
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ComradeKayAdams

Is this the most important offseason in franchise history? Is the June calm before the July storm making you uneasy? Do you still unironically wear Sabres apparel out in public? A lot will happen this summer, so let us discuss:

 

1. New Head Coach: The Sabres could go in three basic directions. The first and most likely direction would be sticking with Don Granato because of the late-season improvements he made in the team’s style of play, his more rigorous practices, and the positive chemistry he fostered with the younger players. The second direction would be bringing in an experienced NHL free agent head coach. Many interesting names have been thrown around (David Quinn?!), but my favorite is Bruce Boudreau (22nd in career NHL wins, 16th in regular season career points percentage which is behind only Scotty Bowman for a minimum of 635 games coached, 34th in career playoff games coached, made playoffs in 10 of 13 seasons coaching, lives in nearby Southern Ontario). The third and least likely direction would be going with Rikard Gronborg, the former head coach of the Sweden men’s national hockey team who currently coaches in Switzerland. His biggest selling points would be generating a fresh atmosphere in the locker room and developing young hockey talents like Dahlin. While not every European head coach is another Ralph Krueger, the lack of NHL coaching experience will be a tough sell to our fanbase.

 

2. The Big Three: I finally watched the end-of-year press conferences from Eichel, Reinhart, and Ristolainen. Not good, of course, but then again what would the media narrative have been if they were upbeat and optimistic after finishing dead last for the second time in four seasons? It would have been that they are complacent and don’t care enough about winning. I’m not necessarily arguing that their relationships with the franchise are salvageable, but emotions were going to run high immediately after another season like this one. Maybe the right choice for new head coach will persuade them to stay?

 

3. Roster Surgery: Our franchise is composed of two main player groups. The first is a talented younger cohort of 19 players who responded well to Granato’s guidance if they were in Buffalo (Luukkonen, Dahlin, Bryson, Samuelsson, Jokiharju, Borgen, Cozens, Mittelstadt, Olofsson, Asplund, Bjork, Ruotsalainen, and Thompson plus Portillo, Johnson, Laaksonen, Pekar, Quinn, and Peterka). The second is a veteran core of 10 players who are either 28+ years old or who have been with the Sabres for 5+ seasons (Ullmark, McCabe, Ristolainen, Miller, Eichel, Eakin, Skinner, Girgensons, Reinhart, and Okposo). The younger group will need proper veteran leadership at every hockey position. How to deal with the latter group is THE critical question of the offseason. Ullmark, Eichel, and Reinhart are the only three in this veteran group that I would make strong efforts to keep. The other seven can be pawns in whatever salary cap manipulation games Kevyn Adams chooses to play with other teams via trades.

 

4. Seattle Expansion Draft: It will take place on Wednesday, July 21. I expect the Sabres to go with the 1 G + 3 D + 7 F protection format. The most probable plan may be re-signing Ullmark beforehand and then protecting Ullmark, Dahlin, Jokiharju, Ristolainen, Eichel, Reinhart, Mittelstadt, Olofsson, Thompson, Asplund, and Skinner while using draft picks to prevent Seattle from drafting Borgen or Bjork. Kevyn Adams and Ron Francis (the Seattle GM) are good friends, so the Sabres should take advantage of that relationship and reach some form of a mutually beneficial agreement.

 

5. League Entry Draft: It will occur between Friday, July 23 - Saturday, July 24. The Sabres have the first overall pick, the 32nd, and 8 additional picks (Boston’s second, Florida’s third, Montreal’s third, Buffalo’s own fourth, Montreal’s fifth, Buffalo’s own sixth, Colorado’s sixth, and Buffalo’s own seventh). I have nothing remotely insightful to add here beyond my general approval of a “best player available” philosophy for every single pick. Matthew Beniers happens to be my favorite at #1 based on everything I’ve read about him (finally our Ryan O’Reilly replacement?!), but I would not be remotely upset with Owen Power. The Sabres need to prioritize hockey character (i.e. strong work ethic and physical toughness and selflessness) with every pick. Preferences can go to centers and right-handed defensemen in cases of evenly graded prospects.

 

6. Free Agency Period: It begins at noon on Wednesday, July 28. The Sabres should attempt to keep all of their RFA’s. Ullmark and McCabe are Buffalo’s only UFA’s worth consideration, but major uncertainty surrounds their injury histories and their interest levels in continuing in Buffalo. Since few quality free agents will likely want to sign with this organization, trades are the most likely avenue for getting better. The city’s proximity to the Golden Horseshoe could be used as a major selling point. The Pegulas have burned themselves multiple times before in free agency (examples: Ehrhoff, Leino, and Okposo plus Hodgson and Skinner), so buyer beware!

 

<<< Kay logs out from BillsFans.com, turns to look at her Sabres hat with pride from across the room, and produces a devilishly gleaming smile. Beginning tomorrow, our eager thread starter shall provocatively engage with the summer hordes of Eichel cravers in Ranger Land. >>>

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  • 3 weeks later...

Too bad about Eichel, but I can’t think of any franchise saviors who endured six years of fronting a league’s worst team.  Every player has his limit.

 

Get some good players for him and see if they can find some chemistry with a different group.

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10 hours ago, KD in CA said:

Too bad about Eichel, but I can’t think of any franchise saviors who endured six years of fronting a league’s worst team.  Every player has his limit.

 

Get some good players for him and see if they can find some chemistry with a different group.


First one that came to my head was Steve Yzerman. Though he and the Red Wings made two playoff runs starting in his 4th season, they really didn’t start doing anything until he was in the league for almost 10 years.  Also, he started winning Hart Trophies on a pretty regular basis, starting his fourth year, too.

 

Eichel could only dream to be Yzerman, but the teams in both their early careers were pretty dreadful. 

 

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20th head coach in team’s 51 year history and 7th in the last 8 years. That’s crazy. Lindy’s tenure was twice as long as Rolaton through Krueger combined. 
 

And after looking at the full list, that count of 20 does not include Bowman and Nolan taking on the job on two separate occasions. So the job has turned over two extra times over those 51 years. 

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On 6/29/2021 at 9:59 AM, Alaska Darin said:

Don Granato gets the gig full times.  Good luck, dude.

 

What do you think? Good hire? It's weird to me on social media that Bills/Sabres fans are pretty rabid about any little thing that happens but I genuinely do not see much, if any, consensus on Granato.

 

New head coaches always seem like a big deal to me.

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Alaska Darin
2 minutes ago, IDBillzFan said:

 

What do you think? Good hire? It's weird to me on social media that Bills/Sabres fans are pretty rabid about any little thing that happens but I genuinely do not see much, if any, consensus on Granato.

 

New head coaches always seem like a big deal to me.

They've absolutely destroyed me as a fan - much like the BILLS did before Polian was given the keys.  Bad hires, bad trades, bad draft choices, bad development, etc.  So all of us are just sitting in the back of the bar like a guy going through his 5th divorce...wondering if it'd just be easier to be gay (in this case, a Leafs' fan).

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1 hour ago, Alaska Darin said:

They've absolutely destroyed me as a fan - much like the BILLS did before Polian was given the keys.  Bad hires, bad trades, bad draft choices, bad development, etc.  So all of us are just sitting in the back of the bar like a guy going through his 5th divorce...wondering if it'd just be easier to be gay (in this case, a Leafs' fan).


In the back of the bar feeling more like the feral boomerang throwing kid from Mad Max. 

 

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Kind of 'meh' on the choice as am still ticked that Eichel & Reinhart are likely imminently former Sabres.  Everything the Pegulas have touched in the MMArena has turned to excrement.  Eventually it won't, and maybe this will be the decision that eventually doesn't follow suit.  But we're likely 2 years plus away from that actually showing results.

 

Have been a season ticket holder since the '90's.  Seriously thinking of finally throwing in the towel.

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Hitbyaparkedcar
On 7/1/2021 at 6:08 PM, Taro T said:

Kind of 'meh' on the choice as am still ticked that Eichel & Reinhart are likely imminently former Sabres.  Everything the Pegulas have touched in the MMArena has turned to excrement.  Eventually it won't, and maybe this will be the decision that eventually doesn't follow suit.  But we're likely 2 years plus away from that actually showing results.

 

Have been a season ticket holder since the '90's.  Seriously thinking of finally throwing in the towel.

Hang in there, you've put a lot into them. This appears to me to be a real turning point. I can't exactly explain it, but it feels similar to when McDermott took over the Bills. Granato has a calm sense of purpose and competency about him. After all he's been through recently, this doesn't appear to be to big for him. JMO

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On 7/2/2021 at 8:13 PM, Hitbyaparkedcar said:

Hang in there, you've put a lot into them. This appears to me to be a real turning point. I can't exactly explain it, but it feels similar to when McDermott took over the Bills. Granato has a calm sense of purpose and competency about him. After all he's been through recently, this doesn't appear to be to big for him. JMO

I agree @Taro T. Hate the way the morning guys always make it an A/B decision...

 

1) Eichel walks on water, and should never be traded.

 

or

 

2) You blame Eichel for the losing, and trading your best player is never , ever a good idea.

 

I think there is a 3rd option..Eichel is a fantastic player, he gave his all for the Sabres, he will continue to be a fantastic player.....but the losing has soured him, and unfortunately, its prolly best for everyone involved to get a fresh start.

 

If you keep him, my fear is at the first bit of adversity..his actions and body language emanate "here we go again".( and who could blame him)..and as captain and unquestioned best player on team, that infects the the entire team. Same with Sam.

 

Maybe fresh perspectives, fresh blood, no PTSD from the losing moves this team forward.

 

Having said that, i agree with PHAM you just cant take an offer simply because its time. Keep him till you get the trade you want.

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Alaska Darin
On 7/7/2021 at 1:56 PM, plenzmd1 said:

I agree @Taro T. Hate the way the morning guys always make it an A/B decision...

 

1) Eichel walks on water, and should never be traded.

 

or

 

2) You blame Eichel for the losing, and trading your best player is never , ever a good idea.

 

I think there is a 3rd option..Eichel is a fantastic player, he gave his all for the Sabres, he will continue to be a fantastic player.....but the losing has soured him, and unfortunately, its prolly best for everyone involved to get a fresh start.

 

If you keep him, my fear is at the first bit of adversity..his actions and body language emanate "here we go again".( and who could blame him)..and as captain and unquestioned best player on team, that infects the the entire team. Same with Sam.

 

Maybe fresh perspectives, fresh blood, no PTSD from the losing moves this team forward.

 

Having said that, i agree with PHAM you just cant take an offer simply because its time. Keep him till you get the trade you want.

Tell me this doesn't feel like Ryan O'Reilly all over again. 

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2 hours ago, Alaska Darin said:


Can there ever be a worse time to trade a guy?

—makes a lot of $$

—potential long term injury

—team that gets him will be locked in because of no move clause

 

If I were a fan of a team interested in trading for Eichel I’d be scared. I bet GMs are, too. There will be peanuts offered for Eichel. I’d even go so far to say that I believe Reinhart might net a better return. 
 

 

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We'll know for certain in a few minutes, but the twittersphere has been pretty well convinced that Seattle chose Will Borgen from the Sabres.

 

The interesting thing about that selection is there is a very real possibility that Birgen won't be one of their top 8 D-men.  So, with the #1 priority to make claims off the waiver wire (dead last doesn't just get the best lottery odds, it also comes w/ dibs on waivers at the beginning of the next season), the Sabres may get him back in October.

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