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Management Wraps Up Postseason

April 30, 2010 - Matt Spielman

Anybody who watched Thursday's end-of-season news conference held at HSBC Arena and didn't come away from it thinking Lindy Ruff and Darcy Regier truly want to win a Stanley Cup, you are lying to yourself.

The emotion with which both spoke and the visible mental drain this season took on them was apparent with each question they answered.

Now whether they know how to win that elusive championship is a totally different question. I agree with their assessment that this team is heading in the right direction and the roster does not need to be "blown up" in order to reach the ultimate goal. Ruff primarily blames the penalty kill's lack of effectiveness in the series as the reason the Sabres are golfing this week instead of playing the Canadiens with home-ice advantage for the rest of the Eastern Conference playoffs, and while the penalty kill was awful in the series, zero power-play goals is unacceptable.

Buffalo is an extremely loyal organization, but changes need to be made on the coaching staff. The team has already picked up Ruff's option for next year, but an assistant coach who can specialize on the power play is sorely needed. Without diving into a total roster examination right now, a power-play defenseman and a No. 1 center would make this team one to be reckoned with next year, including in the playoffs.

Regier has one more year on his contract and managing partner Larry Quinn said the team would discuss the future with both Ruff and Regier sometime this summer. Something I would like to see the team try is not giving Regier an extension at this time. Light a little bit of a fire under him and see if he becomes a little more aggressive than his past has shown. See if he looks for a trade to get Tim Connolly out of town to free up $4.5 million for next season. If Connolly is dealt, say for a draft pick, Buffalo would have nearly $18 million to throw at a top center and a blue-chip defenseman. A lot of players the Sabres would need to re-sign would come on the cheaper end of the spectrum.

It is possible to pay a goaltender quite a bit of money and still have a couple of larger contracts around him, while still begin successful.

Vancouver is paying Roberto Luongo $6.75 million while also paying the Sedin  twins $6.1 apiece and employing five $3 million defensemen -- and the Canucks are still playing hockey.

Chicago is paying BACKUP goaltender Christobal Huet $5.6 million, Marian Hossa $5.275 million and Brian Cambell $7.1 million to go along with some younger forwards who haven't reached their payroll potential yet -- and the Blackhawks are still playing hockey.

San Jose is paying Evgeni Nabokov $5.375 million, Dany Heatley $7.5 million, Joe Thornton $7.2 million and Patrick Marleau $6.3 million, while filling in the rest of the roster with inexpensive pieces -- and the Sharks are still playing hockey.

Like Quinn said in Thursday's news conference, before the collective bargaining agreement, it was hard for small-market teams to compete in the NHL, but that it isn't true anymore. While it is important to draft well and it does pay off to have a really bad season to be given the chance to draft somebody like Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby, teams can still be successful with a mix of homegrown talent, a couple of free-agent signings and a few creative trades on their way to a Stanley Cup championship.

 
 

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Blog Photos

Buffalo Sabres head coach Lindy Ruff says he desperately wants to win a Stanley Cup in Buffalo. AP photo