The Buffalo Sabres seem situated for a bright future if GM Tim Murray can make the right moves over the next season or three, but few expect much from them in 2014-15.
Chris Stewart isn’t that far removed from playing for a contender in the St. Louis Blues, so it’s not that shocking that he seems to bristle at “tanking” talk while discussing next season with The Hockey News.
“Look at the Colorado Avalanche two years ago,” Stewart said. “They were a last-place team, and they were arguably one of the best teams in the league last year. So the past is the past. You look at our team now and there are 13 or 14 new faces. So we come in and think of last year as an anomaly. There’s nothing we can do now. We can worry about the future. I hear everybody talking about tanking for Connor McDavid. That’s not in my DNA, personally. I was with St. Louis for four years, and we were Stanley Cup contenders every year. So that’s how I’m going to approach it. It’s playoffs or bust.”
If nothing else, the Sabres have a lot of players who should be motivate to prove that they belong in the NHL (or deserve big raises). Stewart’s $4.15 million cap hit is set to expire, yet he’s far from the only noteworthy player seeking a new deal; Drew Stafford has a lot to prove while both goalies Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth enter crucial campaigns.
Oh yeah, let’s not forget head coach Ted Nolan, a guy who knows all too well that opportunities shouldn’t ever be taken for granted in the NHL.
Ultimately, there’s only so much Stewart can do to avoid playing for a cellar dweller, but it’s easy to take his statements as more than mere platitudes.
Now, Buffalo’s front office? They might be OK with the idea of sacrificing this coming season for the future, even if they end up saying all the right things.