I figured I should weigh in on the moves that the Sabres have made so far this offseason. To no ones surprise, the Sabres did not make any shocking or huge moves, but they did make minor tweaks to the roster. Our biggest depature has been Jaroslav Spacek, as he and about 45 other NHLers headed on over to Montreal for greener pastures. I've always been indifferent on Spacho. I think he is a good defenseman, but I don't know if I would call him a difference-maker. It remains to be seen if his void will be noticeable. His wonderfully eloquent inteviews will be sorely missed by me though.
The Sabres added defensemen Steve Montador and Joe DiPenta. I'm going to be honest and say I know nothing about DiPenta, but I know the kind of defenseman Montador is. Montador will add some more grit to the blueline, which is an essential piece to winning I think. He's not Chris Pronger, but I can see him finding a nice role on our squad and being a reliable blueliner. This could all be blind optimism, but who really knows!
The Sabres also re-signed Matt Ellis, which I was pleased about. Ellis is a player that you really can root for and I thought he did his job very well when he played for us. I'd hope to see him get more playing time because if I recall correctly, the team won a lot when he was in. Coincidence? Hmm. Moore, Peters, Numminen, and Afinogenov are our UFAs that are still not signed by any clubs as of now, and Moore is the only player that I can see potentially returning to play for us. Numminen is probably going to retire, and I think Max is just going to need a change of scenery for him to get back on track. Peters? Well he is a cheap player so if the Sabres re-signed him it wouldn't be the end of the world but I know a lot of fans would overreact. I wish the best for all of our recently departed players, though.
There is something else that I want to touch on but I won't harp on it for too long. After reading various Sabres blogs and message boards, I just cannot stand how much some fans love to complain and be negative. Look, I know that coming into the offseason after missing the playoffs for two straight seasons doesn't exactly make fans want to feel positive, but I think there are a good handful of fans out there who have grown accustomed to putting a negative spin on everything. Especially with our management. Our front office doesn't have the best track record over the past few years, but I think fans need to look at some things with a more clear head. During the season many fans (and the media) complained that our team lacked toughness and grit and we needed to add more grinders to our roster. So this offseason Darcy acquires a few of those grinders, and many fans are complaining that Darcy is wasting his time with "bad" hockey players because they don't have as much skill or talent as other players on the market. Fans also complain when Darcy doesn't make trades to get rid of certain players like Hecht or Tallinder. I don't think some fans realize that trades aren't as easy to make as they are in NHL 09. You aren't going to trade Hecht for Malkin. Yes I'm aware that's an extreme example, but you understand the gist.
Darcy has always made more subtle moves than other GMs when it comes to free agency, and he likes to trade or find players from within our system. Many fans are fed up with Darcy's lack of moves in the offseason. But to look on the flip-side of things would signing a player to a mega deal really help this team to win a Cup? Did Hossa win a Cup for Detroit? Did Campbell get a Cup for Chicago? Did Drury and Gomez get a Cup for the Rangers? Did Mats Sundin get Vancouver's name engraved on Lord Stanley? Now that's not to say that acquiring a top marquee player is a mistake, but I just think that free agency can be extremely overhyped and teams can overpay for a player out of desperation and it can really leave a team in a tight spot in the upcoming years. I mean, who was the most active team in last year's free agency? If I recall correctly it was Tampa Bay.
I'm not saying that fans always have to agree with our front office's decisions, I'm just saying that it's okay to also look at things with a more level head and maybe things aren't as bad as the fans and the media perceives them to be. We have a bunch of young talent in the AHL and some of them already seem to be ready to make the jump to the NHL (Myers?). I'm not saying these kids are going to come in be our saviors, but it will be fun and exciting to see some fresh faces and it will be interesting to see how they fair. And believe it or not, we still have a lot of talent on our current roster, and they really can be a playoff team... There are a lot of "ifs", but I do believe that this team is capable of making the playoffs. It's really in the player's hands and as easy as it is to be negative about our situation, I just will always try to see the best in situations and I know that this team has the tools to being a very good team. Look at Pittsburgh. They were in 10th place for a good stretch and they were battling to clinch a playoff spot during the tight Eastern Conference playoff race, but they clinched a spot and they battled their way to the Cup. While everyone had their eyes on the top teams like San Jose, Detroit and Boston, Pittsburgh continued to play great hockey and got the ultimate reward. Granted they have players like Crosby and Malkin on their team, but my point is anything can happen in the playoffs.
The offseason isn't over yet and there are still players out there and the Sabres can still make moves. But as of now, I am still being patient and I'm not about to throw in the towel for the 09-10 season 3 months before the season begins.