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Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning: Buffalo needs a guy like Ryan Callahan

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We identified some weaknesses in the Sabres organization, and have an idea.

NHL: Buffalo Sabres at New York Rangers Danny Wild-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Sabres at Tampa Bay Lightning: GAME# 81

Time: 7:30 pm Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: SunS, MSGB

Opponent SBNation Site: Die by the Blade

Preview

  • The Bruins lost their game last night to leave first in division up in the air, so that means winning this game still matters. First in division is up for grabs! Last night the Nashville Predators clinched President’s Trophy, congrats to them.
  • Nikita Kucherov point watch: we’re at 98.

In their loss to the Ottawa Senators, the Buffalo Sabres clinched 31st in the league and a fair chance of drafting first overall. They have Jack Eichel, they have Kyle Okposo, they fired Dan Bylsma and have moved on to Phil Housley; why do they still suck? I went on a deep dive over at Die by the Blade to figure this out — and then GeoFitz4 came up with the perfect solution to the Sabres’ problems.

Is it the coaching?

The Problem is Beyond the Coaching

We’re on the second head coach who has said the players in the room won’t stick to a game plan. A team who won’t play within the structure of the system. A team who has shown their true colors in two years as a hockey club. [....]

The point I’m trying to make is it’s become obvious that players on this roster are not focused enough or have the desire to get the simple errors out of their game. It doesn’t matter who the coach behind the bench is at this point. No longer can you blame it on the communication style of Dan Bylsma or coaching tactics of Housley. [DBTB]

Is it specific players?

Exhibit A was the first goal in the game against the New York Rangers on Thursday. Forward Benoit Pouliot is covering for Justin Falk who went down low on a pinch. Inexplicably Pouliot goes after a puck in the faceoff dot that he never had a chance of getting. The Rangers player tips the puck around Pouliot and Nash is off to the races after Jake McCabe can’t make a play at the blue line to keep it in. If Pouliot remains in the proper position he’s in the right spot to give McCabe support. [DBTB]

Aside from Benoit Pouliot, who else is terrible?

The Sabres have three players that seem like prime candidates [for a buyout] heading into the offseason. They are Zach Bogosian, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson.

Who is actually doing well?

Things are quite different this season for [Alex] Nylander. After posting 28 points in 65 games last year, he’s battled back to score 26 in 48, bettering his output by about one goal every nine games. While 26 points are only ninth on the team, 16 of those points have come at even strength. Also, at a plus-2, Nylander is no longer the irresponsible one-trick pony he was last season. Using the same approximation, his goals-for percentage has jumped to 53.3 percent – nearly double last year. [DBTB]

So what’s the solution here?

One major issue that I think the Buffalo Sabres have been struggling with this season is team leadership. While we were hoping that either Jack Eichel or Ryan O’Reilly would step up this season and take control of this team, neither has really gotten into that role. Unfortunately, this will potentially create a void, once again, for the captaincy next season as well.

However, bringing in Toews would change that. Toews is touted for his leadership and intangibles on and off the ice and has led Chicago to 3 Stanley Cups this decade. He was a key part of a rebuild that took Chicago from the laughing stock of the league to a dynasty in under 5 years. With all of the young kids slated to come in over the next few seasons, team leadership is more important than ever. [Fan post at DBTB]

We, the fans of the Tampa Bay Lightning, have a better offer for you than an expensive former captain.

[This part is by GeoFitz4]

How about...a different former captain? Ryan Callahan. Plain and simple. He’s a New York native, born and raised in Rochester, just an hour away from Buffalo. He even played for a season with the Buffalo Lightning in the OPJHL in 2001-02 before he made it into the OHL. He has 104 career playoff games and over 700 career regular season games. He was a Captain for the Guelph Storm for two years and the New York Rangers for three. Plus he’s spent six seasons as an Alternate Captain in the NHL.

This makes him the kind of leadership material that the Buffalo Sabres need in their locker room. He’s only under contract for two more seasons so he can come in, be the captain for a couple of years, and tutor the young players on the roster about how to be professionals. He can teach them to play within the system every shift, every game. His contract will be up just in time for Jack Eichel’s apprenticeship to be over and take over as the new captain.

Callahan is half the price that Toews would be against the salary cap. Plus, the Lightning would likely give him up cheaply in return for taking on the rest of his contract. He could probably be had for the low price of a fifth-round pick.

Toews is on the downside of his career. He’s paid like a player that should be putting up 85-100 points a year. He’s never done that. In fact, he’s only ever been over a point per game once in his career and that was during the 2012-13 lockout shortened season. And he’s under contract for three more years than Callahan. Ryan O’Reilly is already as good a player as Toews is now and has more capacity to maintain that level over the next five years than Toews does. And at 75% of the cost.

Keep Ryan O’Reilly and fill your leadership void with a hometown boy. Do it for Buffalo.

Tampa Bay Lightning

Forwards

Defense

Victor Hedman - Anton Stralman

Ryan McDonagh - Dan Girardi

Braydon Coburn - Mikhail Sergachev

Andrej Sustr

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Louis Domingue

Buffalo Sabres

Lineup notes

Lines from Left Wing Lock

Forwards

Scott Wilson - Ryan O Reilly - Sam Reinhart

Evan Rodrigues - Jack Eichel - Jason Pominville

Alexander Nylander - Casey Mittelstadt - Kyle Okposo

Jordan Nolan - Johan Larsson - Nicholas Baptiste

Defense

Marco Scandella - Rasmus Ristolainen

Brendan Guhle - Casey Nelson

Nathan Beaulieu - Justin Falk

Goaltenders

Chad Johnson

Adam Wilcox