Funny how an innocent remark can spark some interesting conclusions.
I recently visited the Buffalo Home Show at the Convention Center downtown. There I ran into a familiar face as one of the vendors -- Rob Ray. Now, everyone thinks of Rob as one of North America's top authors (at least I do, although I'm a little biased here). Rob has a business that deals with home remodeling.
After Rob and I exchanged the usual pleasantries, the status of the Buffalo Bandits came up. He asked why the team wasn't doing well this year, at least by its own high standards. I said that while the team had maintained a corps of stars from last season, it had turned over much of the rest of the roster. And based on all of the transactions that have happened during the course of the season, it's fair to say that some of the moves concerning the surrounding cast just haven't work. Practically everyone except for the stars has done some sitting during the course of the season, as Darris Kilgour has searched for the right combination.
I paused for a moment, and then some unexpected words came out of my mouth. "It's the exact opposite of the problem that the Buffalo Bills have," I said.
I went on to say that the Bills had some decent enough players scattered through the roster. But how many of them would you call stars? Virtually none of them. Lee Evans and Aaron Schobel are about the only ones who could be considered elite talent, and Schobel is pondering retirement as we speak.
While talking, I realized that any description of the Bills also could be applied to the Sabres ... with the exception of Ryan Miller. Is there anyone on the Sabres roster who could be considered an elite player, a near-untouchable? Thomas Vanek is supposed to be that player, but he probably isn't there yet.
You can win some games in the NHL with a top-flight goalie and a decent supporting cast; the Sabres themselves did it for a few years with Dominik Hasek. But it's tough to win it all that way.
In a salary-capped sports world, it's tough to figure out the right balance between a team that invests too heavily in its stars and leaves the rest of the roster a bit barren, or a team that has plenty of good players but no one who could be called elite. There's no obvious road map. Just ask the sports teams around here.