Zach Kassian:

The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

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By most accounts, trade deadline day was declared a Festivus miracle. Like most trades, we’ll have to wait a few years to really see how things shake out, but on the surface – on paper, the Sabres appear to be big winners.

Heading into the day, only the most foolhardy optimists could have thought the Sabres would get a 1st for Gaustad (well plus that 4th we had to throw in, but still). Then the Kassian & Gragnani for Hodgson & Sulzer trade …. well, wowser. Darcy must have been feeling the heat of the hashtag and indeed #didSomething, using his Jedi mind tricks to bend other GMs to his will. (I like to think he’s a Sith, using treachery, intimidation and over-the-phone Force chokes.)

Or, more likely this was the Sabres’ plan all along: don’t do anything drastic and sell the farm now just to try to make the playoffs, but instead stay the course and do what we can to improve for the long haul, slowly building towards being a championship-caliber team.

3d52ac944554894227bf9c2d6408 300x185 The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

Cody Hodgson. I feel like it should be pronounced Hod-g-son. Shouldn't there be an 'e' in there somewhere? Must be a Canadian thing. Probably the same reason he plays 'centre'.

I’m certainly sad to see Kassian go, not just because I have a Badassian t-shirt from Hockey Heaven. (Which, incidentally they’re so cool they’re offering 50% off the purchase of a new Cody Hodgson #19CoHo shirt.) I love me a good power foward with grit, who is hard to knock off the puck  and will fight – it’s perhaps my favorite type of player. We haven’t seen that in B-lo for some time and Kassian had/has that potential.

But of course, potential is just that and we needed a center. It was the right thing for the Sabres, and Sulzer for Gragnani seems like an upgrade for us as well. Even if Sulzer doesn’t improve much, he won’t be the meek turnover machine that MAG was. Plus, Ehrhoff will have a German buddy who played in Vancouver to hang out with. Maybe those two will synergize into something stronger than the two of them individually, like a monstrous German-speaking Voltron-like robot that smashes anyone who crosses our blue line into a thin paste yet has a (literal) rocket slapshot. Sorry, I was daydreaming a bit there, but I do believe the possibility for them to both improve in each other’s presence is there.

Of course I have to type the obligatory “sucks to see Gaustad go” that every Sabres blogger has had to do. I don’t think I need to expand on that much, but for some reason I didn’t realize he was 6’5″ until today. He didn’t seem that big on the ice and knowing that makes me think that he could’ve (and should’ve) played a little bit tougher. Yes, he’s awesome at faceoffs and plays center against the other teams top line and all that – but for his asking price, it was the right move. The worst thing about that is breaking up the oft-used Gaustad/Kaleta/Gerbe line. I loved that line: high energy and tenacious as all get out. And no, I don’t think there’s a snowballs chance in hell that we’ll be able to get Goose back in the offseason.

So the Sabres are in a better place and geared up for the future. We’ve taken more steps in the right direction and yet we can still take a run at the playoffs this year. I now feel less apprehensive about having to make the playoffs now and more secure in the fact that we’re on our way to greatness.

 The Sabres Are On Track For Greatness; Just (Maybe) Not This Year

I'll miss this mug. I hope Kassian does well - but not TOO well to make us really regret trading him.

Now the bad news: Washington is 7 points ahead of us. Damn you Dale Hunter! Perhaps we did ourselves a disservice by lambasting the Caps earlier this year and helping to get Bruce Boudreau fired.

Ah well, Go Sabres and remember to grab some powernaps for the upcoming late games on the slate!

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Possible topic of discussion for the comments: Do you feel more comfortable with the team now after these trades? Do you feel like we still have to make a push for the playoffs? Or are you more relaxed and ok with not making the playoffs as long as we’re building towards a much better team?

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Weathering The Storm

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What in the H-E-double-hockey-sticks happened against the Pittsburgh Penguins? How can a team completely fall apart like that? We’re not going to make the playoffs with a team like this! We should trade Miller, Stafford and Roy, fire Regier and Ruff, burn the city to the ground and start over from scratch!

Ok, I’m overdoing it a bit. But it’s still pretty chaotic with all the injuries. Heck, even Thomas Vanek didn’t practice on Monday, sending tendrils of fear all through Sabres Nation. It’s been bad, and many are calling for heads to roll, for players to be traded, for Ruff to be fired… and worse. Wow.

A big part of the problem may be that we have a lot of history and buildup with the current team. Expectations were high even before Terry Pegula bought the team. Then he came in raised the bar even higher and said, “We’re going to hit this mark”.

Yeah, these Sabres are all over the map with their play, but that’s to be expected when your entire team consists of the entire roster of your minor league team, minus perhaps a goalie. When Lindy Ruff was asked about getting back to consistency he responded thusly:

“I don’t think you can talk about that until you get your team back,” coach Lindy Ruff said. “You’re looking at a line out there of [Evgeni] Malkin and [Chris] Kunitz, and I’ve got [Zack] Kassian, [Paul] Szczechura and Luke Adam on the ice. You’re asking a lot out of the kids, and they’ve played hard for us. But we need some bodies back.” (Source – Buffalo News)

On top of the injuries, another thing that really makes it hard for us fans right now is that we don’t know what we’ve got in this team. Unlike say, the Boston Bruins or Detroit Red Wings, we cannot unequivocally say we’re going to make the playoffs and be a real threat to go deep and win the Stanley Cup. And unlike the Columbus Bluejackets or New York Islanders we are not totally out of it and looking just to rebuild over the next year or two. No, the Sabres are… well, a pretty talented but young team with a lot of injuries.

And sure, there are a lot of negatives going on right now that we can point to as validation for hitting the panic button. For example, Ryan Miller’s stats are horrible. He has a GAA of 3.12, good for 37th in the NHL, with a save percentage of .902 (32nd in the league.) We also let a guy named Sneep score against us in his very first NHL game! Sneep! I’m sure he has a 1st name but I’d like to pretend otherwise. Sounds like a name from some children’s book. It is, you say?

 Weathering The Storm

The Sabres saw a Sneep. It lulled them to sleep. They barely even made a peep. They were in much too deep. (Dr. Seuss, I'm not.)

So with everything going crazy right now, some might point out the example of the Philadelphia Flyers who made some moves in the offseason that seemed insane at the time. But so far, trading Jeff Carter and Mike Richards has turned out pretty well for them. It feels good to hit the “detonate nukes” button. (It’s such a pretty, shiny, red button.) It’s easy to place the blame on one or two guys and just get rid of them.

It’s hard to not press the button.

But I don’t think we need to do that. Nor is it time to do so … yet. Now, I’m not trying to look at things through rose-colored glasses or tell you that everything is going to be just peachy (or be preachy). I’m just saying that Ted Black and crew deserve some time before we rush into destroying things that the Sabres have taken years to build. Shouldn’t Regier and Ruff get at least one full season under the new ownership to see what they can do? Haven’t they earned that? Same goes for the players.

Like Lindy Ruff teaches, perhaps we shouldn’t get too high or too low. Maybe we should just enjoy the season as it unfolds and take the long view. We’ll have some amazing hockey and some crap games as well. As the season progresses, the Sabres will hopefully gain more chemistry and consistency.

With that should come wins and a playoff spot. And if the younger guys’ streak of nastiness can mesh with the cores scoring ability? Come playoff time they could be downright dangerous. We just need to weather this storm for a while.

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