The Edmonton Oilers rolled into town at 2 a.m. having just snapped a three game skid in Chicago the night before. Without the services of defensemen Ryan Whitney and Tom Gilbert, up-and-coming star Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would headline the injured list.
As a Sabres fan, you had to be thinking that this would've been the perfect opportunity to pounce on an already struggling hockey team. The Sabres themselves obviously felt otherwise.
The First Niagara Center was hollow, clearly reflecting the heart displayed by the Sabres going into the first period. Through the first ten minutes, Buffalo failed to hit a body with a check, or a goalie with a shot. We saw the lack of team within this team, and it was more apparent last night than ever. But somehow, they pulled it off in the end. Somehow, they were actually able to turn the tables on the Oilers and pull off a rare win in regulation.
Are we supposed to feel good about the eventual win though? Did you leave this game with a good feeling in your stomach? I didn't.
The Edmonton Oilers are the third worst team in the Western Conference! Let me repeat, they played a hard-fought game in Chicago the night before, arrived in the early hours of morning in the midst of a seven game road trip, without Nugent-Hopkins, and without three of their top four defensemen! And the Sabres couldn't hang five on them in the first?! Oh yeah, the Sabres are banged up too...whatever.
I would have never guessed that this team would miss the playoffs even a month ago. We were still writing about their poor play then, but in a league where more than half of the teams make it, they weren't on my list of absentees. If they keep going like they have been, their four points out of 8th will turn into eight points in a hurry. History has proven, once you're eight points or more out of the last spot, chances aren't so good for the post-season.
I'll say it again: This team needs a major facelift. There are too many bad apples on this team and they're spoiling the whole bunch.
But now, I'm stuck in a new dilemma. Before, I wondered if Darcy was even capable of making the necessary moves to help this team. Now I wonder, do you make trades to help this season, or do you rebuild all together? Regardless, you have to do something. If this team looks anywhere near the same -- upstairs and on the ice -- by season's end, I'm officially done.
There are plenty of players out there like a Zack Parise -- who will be unrestricted after the season -- that could jump on and help this team now, but do you risk him not re-signing after the year is over? If he doesn't, it's a lost trade.
You know, every day I still wake up and get on the internet to see if Darcy actually made a trade. Even though the trade market has been quiet for this time of year -- contrary to my previous speculation -- I still wake up with that hope. It's starting to drift away though. I mean, why would the GM that's known for never making any moves get anything done if no one else has? Judging by the words of Brian Burke in an interview on thescore.com before the season, Darcy is "unreasonable" when it comes to making trades anyway (skip to the 10:15 mark of the video). People have various views on what kind of person Brian Burke is too, but you can't deny the obvious: The guy has won a Stanley Cup, and the Vancouver Canucks are still enjoying success from the foundation he built there.
Regier needs to blow us away. He needs to land an Iginla or a Nash. One would assume that if he can't, then his job will be taken from him. But in a time filled with so many uncertainties, I wouldn't be surprised if both scenarios fail to happen.
Update: I really want to make one thing clear. I only said Iginla or Nash because they are big names with leadership. Iginla, the proven leader, is of course 34 years old but he is simply a machine. Nash is probably the biggest waste of money in the NHL: He has nearly an $8 million cap hit and has like 15 less points than Jason Pominville right now. I was just naming names because at this point anything wouldn't be worse.
Obviously, they need to get the one thing they lack the most: A #1 center. So, get Getzlaf no matter what it costs. There, I feel better about my post now.