The Sabres Are Good Enough Offensively
Show me a Sabres fan who’s not thrilled with the moves the Sabres have made defensively and I’ll show you the most negative grumpy bastard in the world. You have to love what the Sabres have done to bolster the D. The offense, however, is a bit more of a question mark.
Yes, we got Ville Leino, the Finnish Finisher (ok, so he needs a better nickname, shoot me), and well, that’s it so far. Please don’t say we also got Kotalik. Many fans are rightfully a bit sad the Sabres didn’t land Brad Richards, a clear cut #1 center rather then the question mark of a center that Leino is.
While I would have loved it if the Sabres signed Richards, I believe in Regier, Ruff and Pegula. If they think Leino can play center on the 2nd line, I believe ’em. But the overall perception seems to be that the Sabres need to make another move to bolster the offense. I’m going to say they don’t need to.
Let’s look at last year: the Sabres were 9th in the league in scoring with 245 goals, just 17 goals behind league-leading Vancouver. Those 245 goals were also good enough for 4th in the Eastern Conference. What assets did we lose that would have contributed many goals? Why should we worry that we’ll slip very much?
Sure, we lost Connolly who has never had more than 18 goals. Last year he pitched in with 13 goals and 29 assists, a mark that Leino should be able to surpass.
We “lost” Niedermayer who we could have absolutely counted on to not score a goal most of the year and then score 5 at the very end of the season. Let’s say we might have gotten 5 goals and 14 assists (his 2010-2011 totals) out of him again next year.
Then there’s Mike Grier, who has never been a real goal scorer and has been slowing down with age. Of course, it’s possible the Sabres re-sign him, but assuming they don’t, he had 5 goals and 11 assists last year. Sure, he’s a great grinder and a guy you want on your team during the clutch, but he ain’t getting any younger.
Defensively there are still a couple of question marks. I love Sekera’s potential but it looks like he may be the odd man out. But that’s really ok, because for all his offensive flashiness (at times) he only had 3 goals last year. In fact he’s never had more than 4 in a year for the Sabres.
I’m hoping the Sabres sign Gragnani because it looked like he really matured down the stretch and in the playoffs but we don’t have enough sample size to go on. But scoring-wise we don’t lose much even if we do lose Gragnani – the defense is just so vastly improved. Ehrhoff’s production alone should cover for losing MAG AND Sekera.
So really, that’s about 26 goals worth of production we could potentially lose from last year. Not a whole lot, and not much that can’t be made up elsewhere.
Granted, every single team in the league gets better every year, so it’s not enough just to tread water. The Sabres need to keep up with the Joneses and improve offensively just to stay at #9 overall.
But then again the Sabres don’t NEED to improve or even stay at 9th overall in scoring. Their much-improved defense should be enough to get them into the playoffs and make a run. Slipping a little bit in the the scoring department wouldn’t hurt that much.
On offense, the Sabres (like the Goonies) are good enough. Pegula realizes that not only do you need a good team to win an NHL championship, you also need a good bit of luck, whether that’s staying healthy or getting some breaks and pucks bouncing your way in crucial moments. It’s sort of like my theory of playing in a dynasty fantasy football league: EVERY year is a year to go for it all. There should never be a rebuilding year. Assemble the best team possible, get in the playoffs and you never know what can happen.
Now, Pegula & Co. probably aren’t done working their mojo, and they’ll likely pull off a trade. But even if they stay pat from this point forward, they’ll be just fine.
That said … please go out and get us another center. Pretty please?