When Lindy Ruff led the coronation ceremony in Europe, revealing which veteran players would serve as club-sanctioned leaders for 2011-2012 Sabres, something seemed off.  Good players…  but not the “core”…

When Lindy Ruff led the coronation ceremony in Europe, revealing which veteran players would serve as club-sanctioned leaders for 2011-2012 Sabres, something seemed off.  Good players…  but not the “core” group to lead the team to the newly-stated goal of WINNING THE CUP.

  • C  Jason Pominville—  Better than average player with a good work ethic.  Rarely disappoints with his effort.  Quiet, “aw, shucks” type who, seven years into his NHL career, feels like a “captain because we don’t have anyone else to name captain.”
  • A  Paul Gaustad—  Blue collar fan favorite worth infinitely less than the 1st round pick ultimately acquired in exchange for him.
  • A  Derek Roy—  Talented and productive player who can play a role but will never be a vital cog in a championship team.
  • A  Drew Stafford—  All the measurables with no believable consistency.
  • A  Thomas Vanek—  Best of the bunch by a lot.  Uber-talented power forward with the ability to dominate, but streaky.

This is a team built from the goal crease out.  Say what you will about Ryan Miller, but the team has long been structured as if its “hedgehog concept” begins from his position…  if not necessarily from him as an individual.

Yes, winger center  forward Ville Leino accepted a boatload of cash to join the team but the heart of the 2011 offseason acquisitions had nothing to do with what was happening up front.  The addition of Robyn Regehr and, most notably, Christian Ehrhoff (ten year deal!) define the first offseason of the Pegula era and provide some insight into the mind of “unchained” Darcy Regier.  If you can’t score, you can’t win–  and we’ll do everything in our power to prevent you from putting it past our guy.

If we must resort to reduction of the Sabres’ roster to a “core,” expect the following list of players (listed alphabetically) to be at the center of everything when the parade makes its way down Delaware Avenue.  

Meet the new core, better than the old core.

  • Tyler Ennis (26th overall, 2008)
  • Christian Ehrhoff (106th overall, 2001)
  • Mikhail Grigorenko (12th overall, 2012)
  • Cody Hodgson (10th overall, 2008)
  • Tyler Myers (12th overall, 2008)
  • Thomas Vanek (5th overall, 2003)

Players like Leino, Regehr, Marcus Foligno, Zemgus Girgensons, Nathan Gerbe, and Brayden McNabb may play a big part in a Cup run, especially if it comes soon.  In a perfect world, Miller and Pominville get their names on the Cup, too.  But the “core” is not about who has been on the team the longest.  It’s about establishing a base of talent, by any means necessary, to compete for and ultimately win the Stanley Cup.

That process is well underway and continues when free agency opens on Sunday.




  1. the coach is the bigger problem. He’s more concerned about his “system” and fails to utilize the strengths of his players. It seems there’s always a fallout boy to take the pressure off the coach. Before it was Connely. Sometimes Miller takes the heat. If its not Miller it’s Roy. When will the finger be pointed in the proper direction?

    • Mike, you hit the nail on the head! Couldn’t have said it better. The team needs built around THE TEAM. A system is great for a bunch of guys who have no specific skill set, but it’s not right for this team.

    • the coach develops the system based on the players he has to work with. When we had scorers, Ruff system set up the highest scoring team in the league, when you don’t have scorers, you have to set up a system that gives you the best chance to win…… All teams play the some variation of the same system.. talent wins not systems

    • Well said mike. I’ve always thought that Lindy gets the most out of bad players and the least out of good ones.

      In spite of what Cody (below) says Sabre fans are not stupid. Even the Buffalo News said the other day that Ruff tries to make all the players play in the same style, i.e. not maximizing their strengths, and he doesn’t put players in position to succeed. That article also indicated that traded and free agent players coming to Buffalo, perform much worse than traded and free agents going to other teams. The paper suggested it was Lindy’s system and coaching style was to blame.

  2. When will people realize the problem is not Lindy. It’s extremely aggravating that Sabres fans are this stupid. He’s a HOF bound coach that every team in the NHL would love to have and you guys want him fired. The reason we don’t win is because are players aren’t good. We’ve never had a roster that deserved to win aside from 1 or 2 seasons (the 2 post lock out seasons). This city falls in love with these players so quickly and are never objective towards them. Players win games and we don’t have a championship roster in place(yet). We have a solid owner in place, a rejuvenated GM, One of the best coaches of all time, our goalies and D are solid, all we need now is to work on our forwards. Thats the only action that need to be taken.

    • Well said, Cody. Another thing I’ve seen happen is that when they are on a roll and doing good, a lot of times they start getting cocky or taking it easy, and make sloppy mistakes–or they try being too fancy with the passing or shooting, and mess up there too. Guys: just do what you gotta do to make successful passes or goals, it doesn’t have to be fancy or pretty.

  3. So what you’re saying is that Pominville will not continue to be one of our most consistent players and serve no role in our road to the cup , but our 1st round pick who hasn’t even played in the NHL yet will? Blaming our current “core” group for falling just short of the playoffs this year is the easy scapegoat when in all reality it was injuries that plagued our season. While we did find some diamonds from Rochester (Foligno, McNabb, etc.), no AHL player can replicate the production of our “new” core guys like Myers, Ennis, and Ehrhoff (by the way there are TWO h’s in his name) who were all out for extended periods of time due to injuries. So, while you may believe that our current “core” wasn’t getting the job done, our team didn’t make the playoffs due to the injuries that plagued our “new” core. Yes, our young players may be the team’s future, our current roster was fine. And, even though we may have ended up in 8th place even with a healthy team, look at what Los Angeles did this year.

  4. I disagree, Cody. The coach has just as much to do with the loss as the players do. If they didn’t, then no team would ever fire their coach. Also, from an objective standpoint. Pommers deserves to be a part of the core of this team, and he deserves that C on his chest. If you don’t agree, then I don’t know what team you were watching all year. Pommers earned that role, and since getting it, he really has stepped his game up. I wanted to trade the fellow but I can’t argue with results, he outplayed both Vanek and Roy this past season, and i have a feeling he will do so again this season.

    • Coaches get changed when a GM knows he has a Great team but is getting no production (PIT 09 and LA 12 are the best examples ST Louis this year as well) or the team can’t make anything happen but want to appease the fans and show them that they are trying to progress, usually because they have problems acquiring talent one way or another(CLS, NYI, CGY). The Sabres are not in either category anymore. Not since Pegula took over. The Sabres haven’t had enough time to trim the fat from the Golisano regime and replace it with actual talent. After this draft it looks very promising but we don’t know what we’re going to get from these kids yet and we still don’t have a true star forward. The Sabres need to be in the thick of the Zach Parise sweepstakes. Right now though this team is just not good enough at forward to win.

  5. i’m tired of the whole coaching feal. either ruff kills creativity for the sake of his sytem or he exudes some other type of poison. i wouldn’t mind a change. he gets out coached year after year and the buffalo mantra is he’s doing the best with what he has (players). i’d like to see this team in the hands of ted nolan

    • Absolutely totally agree. If nothing else the Nolan-led Sabres were exciting to watch, compared to the ruff teams which are as exciting as watching paint dry.

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  7. It’s interesting to see this view as a hockey fan who is not a Sabres fan. I watched the Rangers go from bottom feeder to playoff team because of the emergence of Henrik Lundqvist and a “core” built around Jagr, Straka, Nylander, Shanahan with the addition of Drury a year later. Now I’ve seen the team make tough decisions to let these fan favorites go and build around Callahan, Girardi, McDonagh, adding Richards. Of course the backbone is still Lundqvist but for the first time I’m actually hoping that Buffalo does well. The city is great and deserves a championship. So I’m hoping they win the Cup soon, one year after the Rangers….

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