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Sabres trade changes culture, identity

Feb 18 • Hockey, Opinion, Sports • 2446

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The Buffalo Sabres’ recent blockbuster trade to acquire Evander Kane, Zach Bogosian and goaltending prospect Jason Kasdorf left the organization with a foreign feeling – the sensation of winning.

The move will give Kane and Bogosian a chance to be pillars in the Sabres’ rebirth process. Kane, 23, gives the team a young talent with superstar potential. He also brings Buffalo a first-line winger who plays with a physical edge.

Many critics of the deal don’t properly understand the stud that Buffalo added on the blue line. Bogosian, 24, who was selected third overall in the 2008 draft, adds much-needed toughness to the defensive core.

The rare Buffalo win came at a steep price. The Sabres dealt Tyler Myers, Drew Stafford, a 2015 first-round pick and prospects Joel Armia and Brendan Lemieux to Winnipeg.

The biggest hit to the team’s future will be the absence of Myers. The 25-year-old defenseman has been viewed as an underachiever since receiving the Calder Trophy following his rookie season, but will be missed for what he provided in all phases of the game.

The Sabres lost an offensive threat on the power play and an effective penalty killer with his unmatched length and size. Bogosian doesn’t have Myers’ 6-foot-8 frame, but plays a much more physical game than his trade counterpart.

Kane and Bogosian will play important roles in changing the culture in Buffalo’s locker room and on the ice.

Both are young, have high potential to grow and play with the necessary grit to change the team’s identity.

It was nice to see Stafford’s time in Buffalo come to an end. The underachieving 29-year-old winger won’t be missed by the majority of Sabres fans.

The 21-year-old Armia and 2014 second-round pick Lemieux will likely have average NHL careers, but are losses to the team’s offensive depth.

The Sabres also made another splash before the trade deadline by sending their starting goaltender Jhonas Enroth to Dallas for goalie Anders Lindback and a 2015 third-round draft choice.

The move solidified the most elegant way for the team to tank and ensure its spot at the bottom of the league. Enroth could be re-signed by Buffalo at the end of the season, but he’s not the franchise goalie for the Sabres’ future.

Buffalo should make an effort to sign New York Rangers backup goaltender Cam Talbot, who will be a free agent at the end of the season. Talbot, 27, has shown that he has the potential to become an elite goalie, but has spent the prime of his career behind Henrik Lundqvist.

Sabres fans have struggled through the past season and a half by watching the worst team in the league, but should look to the Penguins and Blackhawks for inspiration.

The Penguins finished the 2003-04 season with a league-worst 58 points, sporting a 23-47-8-4 record. Pittsburgh received the 2004 second-overall pick and chose Evgeni Malkin after being the laughing stock of the league.

The 2005 NHL lockout proceeded throughout the next season and Pittsburgh hit the jackpot by winning the top pick in the 2005 draft and selecting Sidney Crosby.

The Chicago Blackhawks followed a similar path when they ended the 2005-06 season with third-worst league record and selected Jonathan Toews third overall in 2006.

The Blackhawks followed that up with another disappointing season, but were able to grab Patrick Kane with the top pick in the 2007 draft.

Both franchises were able to rise from the embarrassing ashes to hoist the Stanley Cup – the Blackhawks have twice – with their top selections as the focal points of the team’s success. Each team was able to turn its franchise around within five seasons.

The Sabres should look at Sam Reinhart, their second-overall 2014 selection and a possible first or second overall pick in 2015 as the cornerstone of a Stanley Cup run within the next five years.

Additions of Kane and Bogosian, coupled with Tyler Ennis, Sam Reinhart and a potential top pick in the 2015 leave Buffalo with a striking resemblance to the rebirth processes of Pittsburgh and Chicago.

These moves plus some luck will have the Sabres players passing around Lord Stanley in the 2020-21 season.

CONNOR SONDEL

sondel001@knights.gannon.edu

 

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