Originally posted on Buffalo Wins  |  Last updated 5/16/12

As the Stanley Cup Final draws near, so does the NHL Draft and unrestricted free agency. For those who follow the Sabres, the latter two are what they are likely looking forward to most.

The Sabres are entering this offseason after an underwhelming 2011-12 regular season in which the organization failed to live up to the lofty expectations set by those expecting a deep playoff run. In case you hadn’t heard, they didn’t even qualify for the playoffs. Many are expecting the Sabres to make a number of moves to ensure a playoff berth in 2012-13. But what moves will be the ones to push them to the next level?

I've talked to a few fans who seem to think the Sabres need a roster turnover that would rival the 1997 Marlins. I would say that approach is a little extreme. Too many fans are concerned with what the Sabres need to do. They need Dustin Brown, they need Ryan Getzlaf, they need to trade Derek Roy. Well, maybe that last one isn’t too far off. The fact of the matter is that the Sabres aren’t that far off from being a truly competitive hockey club. Obviously the Sabres aren’t just going to cherry pick stars during this offseason. They have a number of shortcomings to address and should be able to do so with a few trades and signings along the way.

First things first, you cannot trade trash for treasure. Again, you cannot trade trash for treasure. That means Derek Roy and a draft pick will not net Dustin Brown. Nor will Drew Stafford and Thomas Vanek bring you Claude Giroux and a prospect. The moves the Sabres will make will be very similar to the trade that brought Cody Hodgson to Buffalo. The Sabres and Canucks each had a need to address and did so by exchanging players who they felt were expendable. If that means Derek Roy or Drew Stafford are on the trading block, so be it. But they likely won’t be in any HFBoards-level blockbusters.

When I look at the teams remaining in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, I see plenty of similarities between the Sabres and those teams. Well, all except the Coyotes; they’re of a different mold. However, the other three share a number of traits with the Sabres.

Each team has two solid lines capable of scoring, they have a deep defensive corps and the play of their all-world goaltender usually decides the team’s fate. In addition, each team’s success is predicated on playing a sound defensive game – except, maybe, the aggressive style of the Devils. However, the Sabres are on the golf course while the others are vying for the Stanley Cup.

So where is the difference between the teams which are still alive and the Sabres? When I look at the Buffalo roster, I say consistency, killer instinct and leadership. I have been watching virtually the same Sabres team since 2007-08 with very little variance in the roster make-up or results. Obviously it is time to re-think the leadership and core within the locker room.

However, what should be understood is that simply compiling the most talented players will not necessarily get the job done. I think the Rangers are a perfect example of this. After years of attempting to buy championships, they have compiled a truly complete roster. They have the high-end talent necessary to succeed with players like Gaborik and Richards; they also have very effective role players like Mike Rupp, Brian Boyle and Brandon Prust (a pending UFA).

Now, third and fourth line players are a dime a dozen. However, when you can find the ones who have the presence and veteran attitude like Mike Rupp, it can go a long way. I like to reference what Mike Grier did for Thomas Vanek as a perfect example of this. Taking that into consideration, do the Sabres have the right kind of leaders in their room? I have to say no.

Ryan Miller has terrific leadership qualities and an obvious desire to succeed, but his ability to influence those on the bench is negligible. Popular opinion would point to Derek Roy and Drew Stafford as better leaders for a bar crawl than a hockey team, but that is more hearsay than anything else. Still, I don’t know if that pair and Jason Pominville have the type of intangibles that could push the team to the next level.

There are a few players left in the Conference Finals who I think would help bring some accountability to the Sabres roster. Keep in mind that I am not taking into consideration Buffalo’s sticky salary cap situation with these four. Also, there is the obvious fact that they’ll likely be retained by their current club. Zach Parise and Brandon Prust are particularly intriguing to me as pending UFAs. Meanwhile, Dustin Brown has single-handedly bunked any rumors swirling about his trade availability with his recent play and Shane Doan, while a UFA, will never leave Phoenix.

The reason I note those four players is because I see them as the type of player the Sabres could use. They’re not the big, scoring center so many fans are clamoring for. Some are more skilled than others, but each would likely bring a set of intangibles the Sabres are lacking.

I also feel that the Sabres don’t need to get those players in particular. It is about finding that type of player. When I look at Buffalo’s bottom six, I think Brandon Prust brings a little more jam and accountability than players like Matt Ellis or even Pat Kaleta (at times). Even if Prust isn’t available, the key should be to inject that attitude into the roster.

As the summer is set to begin, there will be a lot of talk about specific players that the Sabres should be chasing. Bear in mind that Buffalo will need to work around the salary cap before being able to chase any big-name free agents. One other thing to keep in mind, it shouldn’t be about a specific name but finding the right fit.

After all, it seems as if big scorers are NOT guaranteed to succeed under Buffalo’s current system.

Follow Chris on Twitter

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