NHL 

How to Fix the Sabres

After the first week and a half of NHL action, only one team has been held to just one point in their first seven games. That team, the worst team in hockey right now, is the Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo is winless, hapless, and has been outscored by double-digits. Their seven goals scored are the lowest in the league and their former captain (Jason Pominville) scored the game-winner for the Wild in his return to First Niagara on Monday night.

Things are obviously bad in Buffalo right now. How do the Sabres turn things around? There are three major categories that need re-tooling: front office, on-ice, and with the coaching strategy.

Front Office

  • Fire GM Darcy Regier.  When Buffalo fired coach Lindy Ruff in the middle of last season, Regier should have been sent out the door as well. His draft picks have been downright embarrassing the past five years and this roster is nowhere near playoff potential. There comes a time when you have to stop with the excuses, like “this is a young team with a lot of 18 and 19-year olds.” When he built the team, he should have realized that some players were going to need more time rather than being thrown into the fire right away and expected to produce. How many quality players has Regier let walk in his time as GM? Many. How many players are about to leave this season? At least Thomas Vanek, Ryan Miller and Steve Ott. This front office is in shambles, and the only way to steer it in the right direction is to relieve the duties of a man who can no longer perform them to an acceptable level in the National Hockey League.

On-Ice

  • Score more goals. It’s an obvious statement, but it’s been easier said than done for Buffalo so far this season. Thomas Vanek should have more than two goals off of 30 shots. Cody Hodgson has 21 shots but only one goal. Drew Stafford is 1-for-18. Tyler Ennis hasn’t even registered a point yet, nor have 14 other skaters. This offense needs to get it together and get it together quick. The organization on the offensive end needs to improve,the spacing is atrocious. Players are five or six feet away from each other and still can’t complete a pass. The power-play unit is making opposing players who get sent to the penalty box appreciative for the two-minute break, since they know Buffalo can’t score on the man advantage anyways. The offense looks like a complete joke, and makes their games so unwatchable that Sabres fans I follow on Twitter were switching over to the Cardinals-Dodgers game or the Monday Night football game by the middle of the second period.
  • Keep your one positive constant. The goaltending has been fine. Jhonas Enroth had a good night in net tonight and Ryan Miller has a .941 save percentage, good for tenth in the league. With all the trade talk surrounding the Buffalo netminder, it’s good to see Miller turning in solid performances and blocking out the distractions. While it’s only a matter of time before Miller is traded by the team he’s played for his entire career, Sabres fans should enjoy the production their getting from him while it lasts; they won’t see a goalie like him for a while. On the flip side, when Enroth’s name is called, he needs to continue to bring it to pick up where Miller left off. Consistency is key between the pipes, and the goalies have been the only bright spot in an ugly start to the season.

Coaching adjustments

  • Mix up the lines and power-play units. Have Drew Stafford and Marcus Foligno go on the line with Cody Hodgson, while Steve Ott and Thomas Vanek go with Tyler Ennis. As for power-play units, go with Vanek, Hodgson, StaffordEhrhoff and Pysyk on the first line. The main idea is to give Stafford a bigger role and hope that Tyler Ennis figures it out with a small demotion.
  • Mix up the defensive pairings. Tallinder and Pysyk, Ehrhoff and Myers for the first two defensive lines. Switching up the defensive pairings can be a good thing for your club, in hopes that the switch can improve play on both sides of the ice. Defense isn’t the big problem, but it has room for improvement.

The Buffalo Sabres are struggling right now, but that doesn’t mean they can’t turn it around. With a few adjustments like these, they’ll be winning some games and improving in no time.

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