In preparation for the game tonight, we had a chance to talk with Andy Boron of the excellent Sabres blog Die By The Blade. Read on for his take on our questions.
Kevin (LBC): Drew Stafford didn't have the best season last year, lockout-shortened or otherwise. Will the Sabres settle for another slow season from him - or does he need a "change of scenery."
Andy (DBTB): Stafford has been completely ineffective this (and last) season, and pretty much every Sabres fan is fed up with him and would gladly trade him for a washing machine at this point. A change of scenery would be great for him, and for us, but I'm sure he'll end up doing well for another team, thanks to his abysmal shot % last season that was far below his career norm. We expected a regression toward the mean this year and some improvement, but 1 goal in 11 games is not exactly the improvement we all had in mind. Stafford has the stink of the previous core on him as well, so getting him out of town will speed up the Buffalo rebuild.
Kevin: Ryan Miller is the Sabres undisputed number one netminder. What are Buffalo's long term plans concerning Jhonas Enroth?
Andy: None of us are totally sure. Enroth has certainly proven himself a capable backup, but his long-term starting prospects remain in doubt thank to his diminutive size and both good and bad streakiness. The Sabres have a number of promising goaltending prospects, including Matt Hackett in the AHL, and also Andrey Makarov and Linus Ullmark waiting in the wings, so the options after Miller are plentiful, though nobody has stood out from the pack just yet.
Kevin: In light of the current state of Buffalo hockey, do Sabre faithful regret the dismissal of Lindy Ruff and the subsequent contract extension of GM Darcy Regier?
Andy: Yes, and yes. To expand on that, Ron Rolston has looked completely overwhelmed thus far in the NHL, and doesn't seem to have any answers on how to turn this sinking ship around. As for Regier, Sabres fans just won't be able to fully move on with this rebuild until Regier is no longer a part of it, and while he still has his defenders, the vast majority of fans are simply waiting for him to be replaced before they'll invest in such a long-term project.
Kevin: I seem to remember several recent seasons where the Sabres weren't very good. Then, around the 50th game of the season, they suddenly become invincible. Any chance of a recurrence?
Andy: So have we, much to the detriment of our drafts. In fact, the phrase "Heroic run to ninth place" has become something of a meme in Buffalo come February. With this team, though, I highly doubt that a miarculous run is possible, especially considering that both Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek, among others, should be off the team once the Olympic break is over. The Sabres are currently a team full of teenagers (we started FOUR last week) and young 20-somethings with little direction at this point. I'm honestly doubting if they'll crack 120 goals or 60 points for the season, and they should be in line for a top three pick, something else the organization desperately needs.
A big thanks to Andy for taking our questions. To find out what LBC had to say in response, head on over to Die By The Blade. Stay tuned for the game preview around 3PM, and the GameThread, as always, goes live :30 before faceoff, tonight at 7PM.