Nothing.

That is what this almost-over Sabres season will mean to me once the final horn sounds.

Want to know why?  It’s because yet again, for the past two seasons, the Sabres have failed to do what is necessary to make the playoffs (yes, I know it’s premature to with 100% certainty that they won’t make the playoffs this year, but let’s be realistic, friends).

And that frustrates me to no end.

Now, some people are already bringing up the loss of Briere and Drury since we played them this weekend, and saying that losing them is where our problems began.

Maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t, but that’s no excuse.

The guys that are employed by the Sabres right now, and that were last year, have all the talent and skill necessary to get the job done.  But did they?  No.  Will they?  I doubt it.

I’m not asking that the Sabres break out of whatever funk they’re in at present, win-out, and make a push into the summer.  It’s just not going to happen, and I’ve all but accepted it.

(Also, please don’t think that I’m writing them off.  Really, I’m not.  I’m just trying to not get my hopes up, and then have my heart shattered, again, like it has been every single spring.)

What I am going to ask the Sabres are two things.  One I will touch on now:

Have a fire sale.  Please.  (Almost) everything must go.

I sat down with the Sabres roster yesterday morning and figured out contractual agreements through the end of next season, as well as statisitical analysis, and also considered the type of player each guy is and what they bring to the table.

Here’s what I came up with:

Maxim Afinogenov.  We all know he’s an UFA this June, and we all know he’s going to be gone.  I like Max.  I do.  But really?  The guy is washed up potential.  That’s all we ever heard about Max; he’s got potential.  Well he obviously didn’t live up to that at almost any time here in Buffalo, so maybe it’s time for him to try it out else where.  Oh, wait…  It is time.

Chris Butler.  He’s safe contract-wise for a while, so leave his roster spot as is.  He needs to be in Buffalo come October.

Tim Connolly.  Well obviously he’s staying, so we don’t even have to go there.  But, even if he were still a UFA, I’d say sign him.  He’s a valuable player.  Simple as that.

Matt Ellis.  Just like Max, I like Matt.  He brings gritt and stability to a team where our younger guys don’t.  But, seeing as he’s a UFA this summer, and the Sabres need more on the score sheet, it wouldn’t surprise me if Matty didn’t write “Buffalo, NY” on his bills anymore.

Paul Gaustad.  He’s a keeper.  Paul is one of the few guys who gets angry in the press.  Too many of our players (coughpominvillecough) sugarcoat every lost point, every mistake, and I believe that Gaustad’s interviews–when he gives them–are quite refreshing.  I only wish we heard more from him.  I’ll bet that we don’t, though, because he’s more vocal and more willing to call people out.

Jochen Hecht.  A damn good hockey player, but he’s had a terribly forgetful year.  I have a theory about him and Pominville, that I’ll discuss later when I address Pommer himself.  He’s expendable, but with the money in his contract, I wouldn’t be surprised if we kept him because no one would want that price tag after his performance this season.  If I were the GM though, I’d keep him.  He plays a simple style, and when he’s on his game, it’s quite effective as well. 

Patrick Kaleta.  Make him an offer, Darcy, and make it a damn good one.  He’s an RFA this season, so he’s all but guaranteed to be here, and thank the Hockey Gods for that.  He is one of the few who consistently put in 100%.

Patrick Lalime.  He’s under contract through next season, but give him an extension.  He was solid when called upon to fill in for Miller, so he deserves it.

Toni Lydman.  Some nights he’s good, some nights he makes me want to throw up.  His contract is up at the end of next season, so I suppose the Sabres could try to move him, but I don’t really know what to do with him.

Clarke MacArthur.  An RFA at the end of the season, it’ll be interesting to see what the Sabres do.  I expect them to offer, but he had a terrible season as compared to the previous one.  I wouldn’t be surprised if we hear his name come up in rumors.

Adam Mair.  I had a tough time trying to decide where I think Mair should fall in a situation like this.  His contract is up and he can hit the open market next summer, and I might be tempted to say, “C’est la vie,” and wave goodbye, but he too is one of the few who gives all he can every night.

Ryan Miller.  Isn’t it obvious?

Dominic Moore.  His simple game is effective, but Harvard is a rental player.  I’ll be surprised and pleased if he’s back in the fall, but I won’t lose any sleep if he’s not.

Teppo Numminen.  I love Teppo, but it’s time for him to hang ’em up.  He just doesn’t have the speed he once did, and I feel bad.  It’s a shame to see a guy like Teppo say goodbye to the game, but I think it’s what’s necessary.  The man had an amazing career with far less than perfect health, and that’s saying a lot.

Nathan Paetsch.  I am so sick of seeing Patches on the scratch list.  Please, Darcy, I’m begging you:  Trade the man so he gets the playing time he deserves.  Also, his contract is up and he’ll be able to play the market in July of 2010.

Daniel Paille.  He’s in a very similar situation as MacArthur.  Contract-wise, they’re exactly the same.  If I had to choose between the two, though, I’d take Dan.  He’s grittier, but he needs to be a lot more consistent.  A LOT.

Andrew Peters.  I know he’s a great guy, and a great team guy, but let’s face it:  He’s a waste of a roster spot.  When he plays, he gets maybe five minutes of ice time, and we’ve got other guys who will fight (Kaleta, Rivet, Gaustad, Mair).  Also, he’s a UFA this summer.  But, knowing the Sabres, we’ll probably sign him.

Jason Pominville.  We all know how inflated his contract looks now.  But that’s exactly why it’s inflated, or so I like to think.  Everyone is wondering what happened to Pommer this season.  I think it was his contract.  Nothing else can explain it.  I honestly believe that this contract went to his head.  And we all know that Jason and Jochen played so well together for years, and they fed off of one another’s game.  So when one struggles, so does the other.  See what I mean?  I say keep him, mainly because his contract would scare off puppies, but because I truly believe the Jason Pominville that I thought deserved to be captain this season is still in that locker room.  Somewhere.

Craig Rivet.  Duh.

Derek Roy.  You’re kidding, right?  He’s probably our most consistent and most reliable player.

Andrej Sekera.  He wasn’t nearly as good as I hoped he’d be this year.  And he looked just as bad as the rest of the defensemen looked.  He’s an RFA, so we’ll see what happens.

Jaroslav Spacek.  SIGN HIM, SIGN HIM, SIGN HIM.  Please, please, please do not let him walk away July 1st.

Drew Stafford.  He’s an RFA, but make him a good offer.  He didn’t quite measure up to expectations this year, but the entire team was lack-luster.  Give him the benefit of the doubt, and next season, keep him with Connolly and Vanek.

Henrik Tallinder.  See, Maxim Afinogenov.

Mikael Tellqvist.  See, Dominic Moore.  ETA:  He won’t have a spot available here next year either.

Thomas Vanek.  What is off-limits?

Also, as far as the Portland guys go, offer to those whose contracts are up.  Maintain status quo down there, except bring Mark Mancari and Mike Weber up to Buffalo full time next season.  They’ve paid their dues and are ready.

Now just to look at the UFAs for the league and see who I’d like the Sabres to pick up.  That, however, is a task for another day.

And as far as the second thing I’m going to ask?  If Tom Gollisano wants ketchup or mustard with that microphone he’ll be consuming as promised.

Well this post just put me in a bright and cheery mood.  At least if the Sabres can’t win, the Blackhawks can.

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