"The Sabres have spent a lot of money putting a mediocre team on the ice."
CBSSportsline.com's Adam Gretz and Brian Stubitz tossed out that nugget in their "realistic expectations" finale to the Sabres 2013 preview.
So true, so true.
Gretz and Stubitz started off the preview by saying, "New owner Terry Pegula went crazy in free agency and was basically signing checks with a stamp, giving it to any free agent or player that would give him the time of day."
After the Golisano years, though, that's very refreshing to Sabres fans. Years of penny-pinching, watching their own walk because of finances and watching quality free agents sign with other teams left Sabres fans wanting. So when Gretz and Stubitz throw out Pegula spending like a "drunken sailor," we simply say, "Yeah? So? What's your point?"
Rest assured, guys, if a player is available, money is no object for Pegula (outside of cap constraints.) And the reason the Sabres were relegated to signing John Scott in the off-season is because pickins were mighty slim.
And that's OK.
What it comes down to last off-season is the continued dissolution of "the core" and a retool leaning heavily towards the "grit" part of the equation. One should look no further than the Derek Roy for Steve Ott (and big, reserve defenseman Adam Pardy) trade as the definitive move this off-season. And you can add in "core-like" forward Brad Boyes' departure and the arrival of Scott as another move in that direction.
Will Ott and Scott make the Sabres tougher to play against? They should. Add in up-and-comer Marcus Foligno and there's a significant change at the foot of Washington St. heading into this abbreviated 2013 season.
Will it lead to the playoffs, though?
Gretz and Stubtiz end up having the Sabres finishing 10th in the East Conference writing that Buffalo could make the playoffs, and if they did, a first-round loss would be a "likely result."
Which is no departure from the previous five seasons and, therefore, a pretty safe prediction.
Maybe it's because many of GM Darcy Regier's "core" remain--Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and maybe most importantly, Ryan Miller. These "Rochester Guys," as Sabres Team President Ted Black prefers to call them, will be joined by re-signed forward Jochen Hecht, the longest-tenured Sabre (nine years,) and defensive "puck-mover" Andrej Sekera, all of whom stretch back to that first post-Chris Drury/Daniel Briere season. A season in which they finished...*drum roll*...10th. Four points out of a playoff spot.
All were a part of the team when Buffalo missed the playoffs in 2007/08 (10th in the conference,) 2008/09 (10th,) and last season (9th.) And they were all there when the Sabres got bounced in the first round in 2009/10 (Boston, six games) and 2010/11 (Philadelphia, seven games.)
One thing Sabres followers have known for years--Regier is slow to change. And he's also very slow and methodical during the process itself. That's just his nature.
There have been changes since Terry Pegula took over the team in February, 2011 and more changes since the Sabres last game in April of 2012. The question is, have there been enough?