Kevin (M&G): I know I was sad to see Ryan Miller get traded away from Buffalo, so I know you were, too. What has Michal Neuwirth brought to the table, and did the Sabres "win" the series of transactions?
Andrew (DBTB): Neuvirth has been outstanding for Buffalo thus far, but as with all goalies, it remains to be seen whether or not he can do it for extended periods of time. As for who won the transactions, it largely depends on a number of things. Whether or not the Blues make the Western Conference Finals or re-sign Miller, turning that conditional pick into a first rounder, whether or not William Carrier pans out, what the Sabres get for Chris Stewart next deadline, or whether they re-sign him. Check back with us in 2015.
Kevin: I’ve always been a fan of Linus Omark, and was surprised when reviewing your roster on hockey-reference.com to see him listed on your roster. Why isn’t he setting the NHL on fire? I know he has the talent.
Andrew: Omark has offensive skill for sure, but like so many who thrive in the AHL but struggle in the NHL, he simply can't hang with the big boys from the standpoints of work ethic, defensive play, and physical prowess. When sent down to Rochester, Omark refused to report, and subsequently had his contract terminated by the Sabres. Barring a major turnaround, his time in the NHL is likely done.
Kevin: What’s the long term plan here? In other words - when could the Sabres conceivably compete for a playoff spot again?
Andrew: The long term plan is to rebuild in the most complete, effective, and deliberate way possible. The Sabres have spent the last two season trading away almost everyone of value, and will pick in the top two this year. They'll likely pick in the top three as well next year, and will keep many of their top prospects in the AHL or juniors, as GM Tim Murray has said that he wants his young players to learn how to score and win in the younger leagues rather than struggle in the NHL. Once they've gotten past the 2015 draft, then the focus will be on becoming competitive. Either 2016 or 2017 will be the year for Buffalo.
Kevin: Buffalo’s defense is slightly below average, but their offense is the worst in the NHL, by a pretty fair margin. What has the front office done to address this with their recent spate of trades. Will they do more to "fix" the problem in free agency?
Andrew: Free agency? No. To fix their defense, all the Sabres have to do is wait another year or two. Rasmus Ristolainen, Nikita Zadorov,and Mark Pysyk all project to be top four d-men in the next 2-3 years, and other prospects like Jake McCabe (and maybe Aaron Ekblad?) will only add to the stable that already includes Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff.
As for their offense, the Sabre have a number of 2nd-3rd line forwards in their system, but aside from Mikhail Grigorenko and Joel Armia, they don't have a lot of potential top line guys in the pipeline. However, that's what the next two drafts are for - with their own high picks and the Islanders probably-high pick in the 2014 and 2015 drafts, the Sabres should stock up on future top line talent.
Kevin: Keeping in mind that the Flames are nearly as bad (in the standings) as the Sabres are, what must Calgary do to earn two points tonight?
Andrew: Honestly? Just play with any sense of desire. The Sabres have been laying eggs over the past few weeks, and seem like a team already focused on the summer. In their previous six games, Buffalo only has five goals, and all from two players - Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. If Calgary can score three goals, it's pretty much a guaranteed win.
We'd like to extend a gracious thanks to Andrew over at Die By The Blade. Check back later for the game preview, breaking news, the game thread, and a second to none game recap afterward.