Niagara Gazette

Pro Sports

January 16, 2008

TIM SCHMITT: Simple moves could’ve kept Sabres cruising

COMMENTARY

It’s easy to do this now, to look back at the succession of potholes they’ve failed to navigate. The Sabres are, of course, three weeks removed from their last win, the last coming in Philly just as the kids started Christmas break. So much has changed since then, injuries and lackluster play included, that Buffalo is still pressed against the glass, peeping into the playoff bubble.

But realize this before you take the Sabres’ nine-game losing skid at face value — Buffalo is just a two-week hot stretch away from jumping right back into the mix. And the New York Rangers, a preseason front-runner to get out of the Eastern Conference and tonight’s opponent, stand just three points ahead of Buffalo despite playing three more games. So much for Chris Drury and Scott Gomez clearing the way for the Presidents’ Trophy.

It’s still possible that Darcy Regier and Larry Quinn — yes, I’m holding the Sabres managing partner equally or maybe even primarily responsible for the team’s demise — could emerge from this season as heroes. Unlikely, but possible.

That said, let’s think this thing through, examining what the braintrust could have done differently over the last season or two to maintain the success we’d gotten familiar with. All without digging any deeper into Tommy G’s wallet, of course.

• First off, they should have dumped Maxim Afinogenov. He’s done little in the playoffs, he’s hardly a leader and you sense teammates don’t feel comfortable giving him the puck on the wing any longer. Give it to Max, don’t get it back, they must think. Unloading Afinogenov for a mid-level draft choice would have freed up $3.5 million. Certainly, it’d be a loss on the talent side, but an important one in terms of chemistry and cash.

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