By Ch2 Sports Director Ed Kilgore
While we're waiting for it to become official that Pennsylvania billionaire Terry Pegula has purchased the Sabres from Tom Golisano - a move that Sabres fans should be excited about based on what we know about Pegula's Buffalo ties and love of hockey (and oh yeh, MONEY) - we're left with the more unhappy prospect of realizing that the current team will need nothing short of a miracle on ice II to make this year's playoffs.
It seems just about everything that can go wrong is going wrong, with the most recent mishap the loss of leading scorer Derek Roy for the season with a knee injury.
The Sabres problems began long before that, however, and while you can point a finger at gm Darcy Regier, as many always do, or Lindy Ruff, who is getting more negative attention these days, the truth is, this year's Sabres have been darn unlucky too.
Ryan Miller is having a decent season as NHL goaltenders go, but Miller is not supposed to be "decent", after wowing the world with his Olympic performance and solid showing that pushed the Sabres to the Northeast Division title with 100 points last season. Miller was 41-18 a year ago with a 2.22 goals against and .929 save per centage, as compared to barely above .500 this season with .907 and 2.77 numbers.
Miller hasn't been healthy, and while it's easy to say that's just an excuse, it's also a fact of life that goaltenders especially have to have all cylinders working to be at the top of their game. We saw it with Dominik Hasek when he was here, and we recently saw a great example of that with New Jersey's usually unflappable Martin Brodeur.
But it's obviously more than Miller. The Sabres aren't scoring enough goals. Just recently we're seeing the Jason Pominville the Sabres were counting on to provide offense earlier, but a concussion took his offense and penalty killing away.
Who could have seen the horrendous sophomore slump of Tyler Myers coming? Yes, it was expected Myers might miss working with steady veteran Henrik Tallinder, and the Sabres brain trust can take a bow for not re-signing Tallinder, but that's only part of the problem. For quite awhile Myers was among the league's worst in terms of plus-minus numbers, and only recently he's also started showing signs of coming out of his funk. Still, he's at a very disappointing minus 12, tied for the worst number on the team.
Drew Stafford also missed significant time with injuries, and ditto for Tim Connolly. Stafford has come on strong lately, but Connolly remains the tantalizing talent who seems to fall just short for yet another season. Connolly has also been a defensive liability based on the plus/minus numbers at minus 10, and it's hard to see him here much longer.
Jordan Leopold has been a great free agent acquisition, but the list starts and pretty much ends there. Defenseman Shaone Morrisonn has been less than a non-factor with no goals in 25 games and a minus 9.
Back to the missing offense, while Thomas Vanek does have a respectable 15 goals, that's not a lot for a $7 million player, not to mention Vanek is tied with Myers at minus 12.
Has anybody seen center Rob Niedermayer? He is skating much better now after minor knee surgery, so maybe he'll be a factor this season, but he's still looking for his FIRST goal in 30 games. Veteran forward Mike Grier is gritty, but he has two goals in 39 games and it's a similar deal for center Paul Guaustad, who has 3 goals in 39 games. That just isn't good enough.
I sense that Pegula will take awhile to make changes, but the group in place right now is starting to look like it has peaked and is now headed south.
If that's the case, nobody should get too comfortable.