When the Sabres miss the playoffs for the third straight year, it
won't be for a lack of coaching. Lindy Ruff's staff, which
increased to three full-time assistants when Jim Corsi was
promoted from part-time goaltending coach this summer, grew again
during training camp. Rick Martin, third on the club's alltime
scoring list and one of four Buffalo players to have had his
number retired, was recruited to be "skill development coach." He
will work with the forwards and, if nothing else, remind Sabres
fans of better days.
No other team has a skill development coach, but necessity is the
mother of invention. Last season Buffalo scored 190 goals, the
fewest for a full season in franchise history. The 52-year-old
Martin, a 40-goal scorer five times in his career, surely
remembers a few offensive tricks. "He knows the subtleties of
scoring," says general manager Darcy Regier. "If he can help guys
with release time or the ability to set up in the zone, it could
mean one or two more chances per game."
But the only proven scorers in the lineup are left wing Miroslav
Satan, who had 26 goals last season and has led the team in
scoring the past two years; new top-line center Chris Drury,
acquired in an off-season trade from Calgary; and right wing Ales
Kotalik, who had 21 goals as a rookie last year.
The goaltending situation needs to be clarified. Martin Biron,
who in his first year as the starter, in 2001-02, won 31 games,
regressed last season (17-28-6, 2.56 GAA) and briefly lost his
job to backup Mika Noronen and prospect Ryan Miller. Frustrated
by Biron's frequent lapses of concentration and poor work ethic,
Buffalo might switch to the 23-year-old Miller if Biron doesn't
show signs of a turnaround.
At least the Sabres, who were bought by billionaire Thomas
Golisano in the spring, no longer have to play with the fear of
bankruptcy or relocation. "A year ago we were just trying to
survive," says Regier, who has been told by the new regime that
missing the playoffs will likely cost him his job. "Now we have a
sense of stability and direction."
But they're not headed to the postseason. --S.C.
COLOR PHOTO: C. ANDERSON/B. BENNETT STUDIOS CHRIS DRURY
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )
POWER PLAY 19
PENALTY KILLING 12
G.M. AND COACH 25
The Sabres will be the most improved club in the East, but
they're probably still too small down the middle to be a playoff
team.... They have excellent mobility on the blue line, and it's
vital for the club to incorporate their defensemen into the rush
as much as possible to punch up scoring.... Expect D Dmitri
Kalinin, in his third full year, to emerge.... C Chris Drury is
an excellent pickup who will provide leadership, while the
addition of diminutive C Daniel Briere should spark the power