The decisions this season will not be as difficult as, say, 2007 when Daniel Briere and Chris Drury were up for a new contract. Nor will it be on par with last off-season when decisions were made on d-men Hank Tallinder and Toni Lydman.
Still, it's a new regime this 2011 and some UFA decisions will need to be made concerning current Sabres. And GM Darcy Regier is still in charge.
A quick look at Buffalo's UFA's and whether they could/should be a part of the future Blue and Gold:
--Tim Connolly--A classic case of not cutting your losses and, worse, compounding them by doubling down.
Going back to Connolly's 1999 draft-class, take out Daniel (#2 overall) and Henrik (#3) Sendin and you have one of the worst first round drafts in decades.
The #1 overall pick that season was one of the all-time busts--Patrick Stephan. The #4 pick, one pick before the NY Islanders selected Connolly #5, was Pavel Brendl. Other notable first-round picks include: Taylor Pyatt (#8,) Branislav Mezei (#10,) Jeff Jillson (#14,) David Tanabe (#16) and Barret Heisten, who was the Sabres first-rounder (#20.)
Connolly, along with Pyatt, came from the NY Islanders in the Michael Peca deal. The dismantling of "the hardest working team in hockey" was in full swing with that trade, and it seems as if Regier wanted Connolly to be the centerpiece for his team-building philosophy.
There's no denying that Connolly had mad skills to center the top-line for the Sabres, as witnessed by his 11pts (5g, 6a) in eight games of the 2006 playoffs when he was a force. Unfortunately he had zero goals in three playoff appearances since.
Injuries plagued his entire career, but Regier stuck to his player. And the losses mounted after Connolly was felled by a concussion in the 2006 playoffs against Ottawa.
He was never the same after that. Nor was the league, for that matter.
Yet, Regier held firm.
The Connolly timeline after he was knocked out of the 2006 Ottawa series:
- re-signed by Regier in the 2006 off-season to a three-year contract extension while recovering from a concussion.
- because of that concussion, played only the final two regular season games of the 2006/07 season, but played 16 games in the playoffs producing nine points (all assists) that playoff year.
- played 48 games in the 2007/08 season, the team missed the playoffs
- played a total of 48 games in the 2008/09 season. Was re-signed to a two-year extension with a 50% bump in salary at the 2009 trade-deadline. Regier's logic? That Connolly's return from injury and subsequent re-signing was like bringing in a top-two center without giving up anything in return. The team missed the playoffs
- Connolly plays in the most games (73) since the 2002/03 season and scores a career-high in points (65,) but misses the final nine regular season games with a foot injury. The team finishes 3rd in the Eastern Conference in the 2009/10 season.
- Connolly and fellow top-two centerman Derek Roy, do not score a goal in a six-game loss to the underdog Bruins in the 2010 playoffs. Regier called Connolly a "top-20 center in the league" at the 2010 end of season press conference based upon Connolly's career best, regular season production.
- His production falls noticeably in the 2010/11 season and his plus/minus plummets from a plus-10 the previous year (his fifth year in a row on the plus-side) to a minus-10, the Sabres enter the playoffs as a #7-seed.
- Connolly is felled by a Mike Richards boarding penalty in game six of the 2011 playoffs. His ineffectiveness on offense relegated the center to a big-minute checking/penalty-kill forward. He had no goals in the playoffs again.
I agree, and so is the decade-long Tim Connolly experiment.
|Veteran d-man Steve Montador|
may have some thinking about
where he wants to go next season.
In 2010/11, he was excellent, then dipped, then got better, then got worse.
Basically, this is something you'd expect from a young d-man, not a 30-year old who'd been to a Cup Finals(Calgary, 2003.)
I like the guy as a tough leader, despite his propensity for turnovers and mental errors in his own end. And ya gotta love a guy who will drop the gloves for his teammates despite rarely winning a fight. But the fact is, the Sabres can get that type of play from their youngsters who, unlike Monty, have plenty of up-side.
It comes down to a numbers-game. The Sabres are full of young d-men and they have a back-log in the system.
Thanx for the hard work, Monty, and good luck. Someone will give you a contract worth more than the Sabres offer and some team will get you much more playing time than you'll likely see in the Blue and Gold.
|Sabres winger Mike Grier may be|
ready to hang up the skates. Let's
hope he remains with the team
in some front office capacity.
When Grier bolted in 2006, it was a big loss for the team, as well as the fan-base. He was a decidedly different player from the core--less talent, more heart--and to have him walk away was like ripping a piece right out of you.
His return was welcomed, but it was painfully obvious that he was near the end of his career.
And his playing career should come to an end. But, a guy like him with his smarts and passion should not be let go again.
How does Assistant GM/Director of Player Development, Mike Grier sound?
|Rock solid veteran|
But in the playoffs he was everything they'd hoped for--leadership in a checking role while putting up a few points.
As of right now with the team as is, it doesn't look as if there'd be a match. But, if the Sabres were to add those pieces and had the financial wiggle room to play him in a limited role for the regular season then an increased role in the playoffs, I would re-sign him. Even at $1.2m.
I like what he brings to the table.
|Willing pugilist, Cody McCormick|
All-in-all, he's a solid fourth-line player who's hard work and dogged determination has earned him a spot in the line-up. If, somewhere down the road a better role player comes along, then so be it.
As for now, he's in.
|Yeah, I'm Matt "Friggen" Ellis.|
Gotta problem with that?
Quick story on Ellis: Much to the dismay of Los Angeles Kings GM Dean Lombardi, Darcy Regier plucked the left-winger off of waivers in October of 2008. That was a mere four months after the draft-day, trade-up by Regier with Lombardi to select Tyler Myers.
Ellis is presently the captain of the Portland Pirates and brings strong leadership to the team.
No reason why he shouldn't remain in that role again.
|Patty Lalime (left) and buddy Ryan Miller.|
Thanx, Patty, but Jhonas Enroth will take over from here.
|Mark Mancari shouldn't hold his|
breath waiting for the Sabres to
offer him a one-way deal.
Unfortunately, Mancari was never able to bring those numbers to the big-club.
Some may say that he never got a real shot as he spent most of his time in a bottom-six role.
It's probably more of a case of Mancari not being able to catch-up with the speed of the NHL. He's pretty slow, and he lacks the grittiness that would befit, what amounts to a fourth-line, energy player.
He'll get a shot somewhere else next season.
The Pegula Rewards Program buffalosabresnow list:
- GM, Darcy Regier--No
- Head Coach Lindy Ruff--Yes
- Director of Amateur Scouting Kevin Devine--Yes
- Tim Connolly--No
- Steve Montador--No
- Mike Grier--Yes, in a front office role
- Rob Niedermayer--Yes, if the Sabres are contenders
- Cody McCormick--Yes
- Matt Ellis--Yes, in two-way contract
- Patrick Lalime--No
- Mark Mancari--No