The chess game of the Sabres.

A new season is approaching, Harbour Centre nearing its completion, Ville Leino’s buyout almost a certainty.  Those are the only things a Sabre fan knows with any preciseness.  What we don’t know is what our new GM will be doing during the offseason.  Tim Murray, a no nonsense man, has mentioned that he has a penchant for bigger players, power-forwards.  He also has talked about a fast rebuild and moving up in the draft to acquire another first round pick.

What he hasn’t mentioned though is what the Sabres need to become a better team with the players, or certain players, already on the roster.  No player appears safe to remain in Blue and Gold, in the majors or minors.  A notion he decidedly chose.  Even though he (and Ted Nolan) have notified the players that they need to “up their compete level” to have a job, Tim Murray has done nothing yet about how to create an exciting team to watch.  All he has done is a parlour trick of smoke and mirrors to distract us.

His own wish is to create a more stoic ‘tough-guy’ atmosphere in Buffalo with his burly power-forward leanings.  If the Sabres don’t win at least they will have beaten the other team up.  When we win it will be because we beat the other team up, or more politely as analysts will say ‘wore them down’.  Physically dominating performances, finishing checks, stealing pucks on the back-check, having defensemen getting in on the rush while forwards grit their way out of the corners may be what Mr. Murray has in mind for his style of play.  Are those attributes he has telegraphed to the fanbase like Zimmerman?  This one-upsmanship game he’s playing is merely an arms-race with other NHL teams.  The Sabres are far behind.  Could it be that tiny Tim is attempting to prove himself to his family?  They’ve played this game before (still are) so why come in and not change the mindset?

What do the fans think about the posturing of a man with a chip on his shoulder?  With sixteen thousand season ticket holders and a waiting list rumored to be greater than three thousand within a stadium that only holds nineteen thousand for the worst team in the NHL, the fans will come anyways.  Buffalo, Hope’s last bastion.  We put our faith in vagabonds, tramps, and scheysters out for their own selfish pursuits.  At times we find some gems, some electricity beyond the Niagara Falls.

Is Tim attempting to dam up the Sabres in order to light up Buffalo?  What will Tim Murray become?  Will his personal ‘compete’ vendetta bring a team together for enjoyable hockey and a position in the playoffs?  For that answer I’d have to bend the fourth and fifth dimensions in a Mobius strip.  The best I can do is allow this first time GM time and put myself in a three-thousand person queue.  Both of which have already been done.

The chess game of the puppet masters’ Sabres begins tomorrow (Friday) for the NHL draft.  He has talked, wooed fans, but is he able to dance on that eight by eight square board and impress us, fans and owners alike?

     I have spent months analyzing the roster for strengths, weaknesses, glaring holes, and trying to peer into the fourth and fifth dimensions as best I can.  Skill followed by the C and RW positions are concerns going forward for those donning the Blue and Gold.  Sam Reinhart is the best player to fill all but the RW position.  He also could play in the NHL immediately.  He will surely benefit from being thrown into the fire.  Murray then has three picks in the second round.  Though he’ll likely trade two of them for a first rd pick (looking at the Penguins at 22nd).  Perhaps Mr. Frosty Tips will come over in the trade and Stewart will march across the PA line.  Murray should pick up skill and depth in the forward positions.  With all the picks in the 2014 and 2015 draft he needs to pick well.  Beyond picking well he needs to develop the players better than he picks them.  Their own development, maturity or lack thereof, can be a major reason determining the success of both the Sabres and their new GM.

     Pick Sam Reinhart.  He has the hockey sense about him to not just be an intelligent player but a mature person.  Pick fellow intelligent and mature players who will play with skill, despite your zeal for power-forwards.  While I am not one for putting nor drafting power-forwards, I ought to give Tim Murray some time.  If puffing up his chest fails – and it most certainly could- Buffalo is in for a long winter.  A new GM (5 years from now) will need to come in and go against the grain of both the thinking and practices of NHL brass; a task no good soldier does especially the great soldiers that become GM’s (tourniquet).

I forsee no gambit in Tim Murray’s opening game.  No strong defense, no strong opening, just a posturing of pawns with the flashiness of dancing bishops.  Well do-si-do and around Buffalo goes like toy soldiers, knights of the chess board.  A positional play Murray has done thus far.  He is setting himself up for a long game.  May a Steinitz-like opening actually be the man and not a tumbleweed* of a man passing through trying to come out from the shadow of his family.

*not to be confused with the unorthodox chess opening of the same name this writer has been known to employ.

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