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GM Hockey » The other NHL teams » Atlantic » Buffalo Sabres » With Zach Kassian and Joe DiPenta, What's Next for the Sabres?

With Zach Kassian and Joe DiPenta, What's Next for the Sabres?

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The Buffalo Sabres just missed the playoffs last year, for the second straight season in a row. There was, and is speculation that long time coach Lindy Ruff, as well as GM Darcy Regier might not be with the club come the 2009-10 season.

Despite having one of the league's most skilled netminders in Ryan Miller, the Sabres have struggled to match their winning form, as they've continued to lose talent like Daniel Briere, Chris Drury, JP Dumont and Brian Campbell.

The franchise also appears to be threatened by the possible move of an NHL franchise to Hamilton, which, according to some reports, could erode the Sabres' fan and season ticket base.

So what's ahead for the Sabres?

Yahoo Sports provides this team report:

Inside Shots: The Buffalo Sabres
June 1, 2009/Yahoo Sports

Tim Connolly has been hurt. He’s been a talented playmaker. He’s turned into a scorer. So what’s next? It’s time to be a leader.

Connolly signed a two-year, $9 million contract extension with the Sabres in March, and he knows a deal like that brings bigger expectations than just solid on-ice play. He says he wants to deliver when the Sabres reconvene this fall.

“That’s just part of maturing as a hockey player and going from a young guy to more of a veteran guy on the team,” the 28-year-old said. “It’s something that’s got to be done. You’ve been around for a while, you’ve seen and know what it takes to try and get to the next level, and it’s just something that needs to be done.”

Connolly, who missed nearly two seasons with concussions and most of the past two seasons with myriad injuries, dressed for Buffalo’s final 42 games. That may not sound like a milestone, but it was the center’s best run since 2005-06. He’s confident injuries are behind him.

If so, he can deliver on the ice. Connolly set career highs with 18 goals and a plus-12 rating in his 48 games.

“There’s still some room for improvement,” Connolly said. “I think one of the areas is I can be a little more physical out there. There’s guys that that’s their specific job, but I think it could help me become a more well-rounded player.”

Season Highlight: The Sabres started the season 6-0-2, and they looked like world-beaters. They were holding opponents to fewer than two goals per game, and they were scoring nearly four per outing. Thomas Vanek had eight goals in the span.

Turning Point: Goaltender Ryan Miller went behind the net to play a puck Feb. 21, and the Rangers’ Chris Gomez clipped his leg. Miller sprained his ankle and missed five weeks of crunch-time hockey. The Sabres went 4-7-2 in his absence and fell behind in the playoff race.

Notes, Quotes

Sabres owner Tom Golisano, a three-time candidate for governor of New York, has decided to leave the state. The native of Rochester, about 60 miles from Buffalo, blasted the way New York is run, and the billionaire said he can save $13,800 per day in income tax by moving to Florida. “I can put that money to a lot better use, whether it be charitable contributions or even to try to change the system,” said Golisano, who said his move will not impact his ownership of the team.

Sabres minority owner Larry Quinn said he didn’t believe Jim Balsillie’s bid to move the Phoenix Coyotes into southern Ontario—Buffalo’s backyard—would reach a legitimate enough level to comment on. But New York Senators Charles Schumer and Kristen Gillibrand issued a statement opposing Balsillie’s try, saying a move would be “crippling” to a Sabres team that gets 20 percent of its revenue from Canadian residents.

Quote To Note: “I don’t want to be commenting on this proposal because it’s not one that’s been presented to the league. I don’t think it will be. If it is someday, then we’ll make a decision on that.”—Sabres minority owner Larry Quinn on Jim Balsillie’s bid to buy the Phoenix Coyotes and move them to southern Ontario.

Roster Report

Most Valuable Player: Goaltender Ryan Miller was everything the team hoped for when it signed him to a five-year, $31.25 million contract extension before the season. Miller was among the NHL leaders in victories and saves when he was injured in February. He returned in March and went 5-2-1 in his final eight starts.

Most Disappointing Player: Jochen Hecht scored 22 goals last season and was a candidate for captain. His output was down by nearly half this season. He is more of a “lead-by-example” type, and his game was too depressing to inspire anyone.

Free Agent Focus: Jaroslav Spacek is the Sabres’ biggest concern. The 34-year-old led the Buffalo defensemen with eight goals and 36 assists. He said he would like to return. Forward Drew Stafford could attract attention as a restricted free agent. Unrestricted free agent Maxim Afinogenov, the longest-tenured Sabre in his ninth season, will not be back after two poor seasons.

Player News:

D Henrik Tallinder continues to be discussed as a player on the way out. The former lockdown defender has had problems in his zone the last two seasons, and the Sabres could be interested in moving Tallinder, who has one year left on his contract at $3.25 million.

G Patrick Lalime is a member of the rumor mill. The 34-year-old goaltender’s season ended early because of a hip injury, and the Sabres have yet to issue an update on the severity of the ailment. There are concerns it is a chronic problem that could impact his playing future.

D Tyler Myers, signed to a three-year entry-level contract in early May, helped the Kelowna Rockets advance to junior hockey’s Memorial Cup before losing in the finals to the Windsor Spitfires.

Medical Watch:

G Patrick Lalime has a bad hip that forced him to miss the final two weeks of the season. He may need offseason surgery.


So are the Sabres a team to reckon with next year? Or will they be overtaken by other teams in the East? What do they need to add to return to the playoffs?

Over to you.

Last edited by davetherave on Sat Jul 11, 2009 7:05 pm; edited 2 times in total


should be some interesting times in Buffalo, they went from a dominant eastern team to one of those bubble teams with some lacklustre talent. Miller is still solid as always though, that is a positive.

on a side note DTR, is Air Jordan coming out of retirement to suit up for the Hawks? That will make the 3rd chicago team he has played for if so Laughing3


What's next for the Sabres?

A playoff spot.


EJ Hradek and Tom Awad take a sharp look at the Sabres.

Sabres need someone to spell stopper Miller
EJ Hradek, Tom Awad/ESPN INSIDER, June 18, 2009

Plugging Holes -- Buffalo Sabres

With Zach Kassian and Joe DiPenta, What's Next for the Sabres? Buf
The Hole: Backup goaltender

The Sabres' playoff hopes this year were doomed by an ankle injury to Ryan Miller. Miller posted a team-leading 23.6 GVT, eighth in the NHL, while his replacement, Patrick Lalime, managed only a meager -2.6 in 24 games. Going forward, the Sabres would do well to have a better insurance policy as well as a strong backup goaltender to give Miller some nights off and keep him rested for the playoffs, which the Sabres aim to be participating in next season.

The Fix: Sign G Scott Clemmensen (UFA, Devils)

Clemmensen had a breakout season in 2008-09 when Martin Brodeur went down, and he performed admirably, not only keeping the Devils in the playoff hunt but actually leading them to the division title. Clemmensen's 13.3 GVT was 15th among NHL goaltenders, pretty good for a guy who began and ended the season in the AHL. While expecting Clemmensen to maintain this level of production would be unrealistic given his past performance, he would still be a reliable backup and would give the Sabres an alternative to the streaky Lalime.

E.J.'s Take: I would suggest that the Sabres have more pressing needs than seeking another backup goalie. With veteran D Jaroslav Spacek likely leaving via free agency, Buffalo would be better off seeking some help for its blue line.

The Sabres, not a franchise that wants to spend right to the cap limit, don't have a lot of budget space. In fact, they might have to improve their defense from within. I expect prospects Chris Butler (47 games last season), Mike Weber and Marc-Andre Gragnani to get an opportunity at full-time duty in Buffalo.

Also, I don't think the Sabres are prepared to flush the final year of Lalime's two-year, $2 million deal. Some teams could afford to eat the cash. I don't see the Sabres as one of those teams.

Tom Awad is a writer for Puck Prospectus. E.J. Hradek is a senior writer for ESPN The Magazine.

Note: A mainstay of Puck Prospectus's metrics is "Goals Versus Threshold" (GVT). The stat blends an array of offensive and defensive figures to measure the value, in terms of goals, a player contributes above what the marginal player would over the course of the season. A marginal player is one that could be replaced with a player of equivalent skill, e.g. from the minors. For instance, Evgeni Malkin had an offensive GVT of +18.9, a defensive GVT of +4.5 and a total GVT of +23.4 for the 2008-9 regular season, meaning that Malkin was worth 23.4 goals more than a marginal player over the course of the season, or worth about 0.3 additional goals per game. In the team context, GVT refers to performance above an NHL average team. For the regular season, the Detroit Red Wings had a +30.8 offensive GVT, a +15.1 defensive GVT, a -21.5 goaltending GVT, for a +24.4 total GVT. Therefore, at even strength, Detroit was 24.4 goals better than the average team.


The Sabres go for a Zach Attack.


A restraining order.


The name of Joe DiPenta was evoked elsewhere on the forum recently...well, he's back, and he's a Sabre. This from TSN:

TSN/The Canadian Press, July 11, 2009

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- The Buffalo Sabres have signed free agent defenceman Joe DiPenta.

DiPenta agreed to terms of the one-year deal Saturday.

He played in the Swedish Elite League last season, posting six points in 47 games for Frolunda.

The 30-year-old has played in 174 career NHL games, collecting 23 points and 110 penalty minutes with Atlanta and Anaheim. He won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007.

DiPenta was originally selected by the Florida Panthers in the third round of the 1998 NHL Entry Draft.

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