Kovalchuk trade puts Sabres behind the pack

Yes, I see, they’re still in 3rd place. I can read.

But last night’s blockbuster deal sending Ilya Kovalchuk to New Jersey isn’t going to put the Sabres any higher on the list of Cup contenders in the East.

The Sabres have been struggling of late. Just 3-5-2 in their last ten, and 2-2 since they returned from their recent trip out west. Ryan Miller has been good, but not great. Thomas Vanek has been hitting the scoresheet, but Derek Roy hasn’t. The defense has not been very good, with the third pairing being anything but set-in-stone.

Ok, it seems like the Sabres are kind of a mess. Right now, anyways. That comfortable division lead is now a single point, thanks to Ottawa deciding not to lose any game they play.

It’s just hard to call the Sabres contenders in the East at this point. With New Jersey, who I considered the weakest of the top five because of their offense, picking up a superstar for the stretch run, it’s now hard to argue that Buffalo is ahead of anyone right now.

Washington has won 12 in a row, and is going to run away with the Southeast. Ottawa has won ten in a row, and they play Toronto tomorrow, which should turn that into 11. And Pittsburgh, the defending champions, are right on the Devils’ back for the Atlantic lead.

What acquisition could the Sabres make to jump ahead of any of those teams? I don’t know. There isn’t much on the market right now with so many teams still in the playoff race. Before the Devils swung the deal last night, I figured it’d only take a couple of bottom six forwards to solidify the lineup. I mean, you don’t expect to win with Matt Ellis or Adam Mair in the lineup, do you?

Now it seems like it might not even be worth it if the prices are too steep. The Sabres are well-stocked in young talent, but there’s hardly a surplus. Giving up prospects or high picks for a futile run might do more harm on the franchise than good.

It’s just a tough decision to make with the team’s recent performance. When they were streaking after Christmas, they were playing as good as anyone in the league. Where did that team go? Are they going to make it back to the ice before April? If they don’t, I don’t have too much hope for more than a couple rounds of postseason hockey.

If the Sabres don’t win the division, it would be hard to say they’ll make it out of the first round. It’d be a likely matchup against either New Jersey or Pittsburgh in the 4/5 series. Even if they do, it’d be an uphill battle winning any other series against a top seed. That top 3 seed is huge. The Eastern Conference has a huge dropoff after the top five teams. Division winners should have an easy run to the second round. But whoever is in that 4/5 matchup is gonna have a dogfight.

Would they survive a dogfight? Maybe.

Maybe it’d be a good idea to just let this season play out and run at it next year.

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Posted on February 5, 2010, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I’m tried of waiting til next season…

  2. Did you actually want them to take Kovalchuk? I’m confused. Because that would have been a monumentally bad idea.

  3. I don’t think Kovalchuk would’ve been worth the price to get him. So, no. But had he been cheap, of course I would’ve taken him. But for the Sabres to give up as much as NJ did would’ve hurt the franchise too much down the line.

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