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Top Secret Fyles: Patience required for Sabres’ rebuilding

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From the drawers of the Top Secret Fyles:

Remember the good times from seven and eight years ago when the Buffalo Sabres were back-to-back Eastern Conference finalists in the NHL playoffs?

Those days are long gone, and now the Sabres are in a major rebuilding mode, shipping off veterans for draft picks.

Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek — once the franchise’s offensive cornerstone just less than two years ago — are gone, and replaced by Steve Ott, Matt Moulson, two minor-leaguers with the AHL’s Rochester Americans and a few draft picks down the road.

The coaching staff has been made over twice in nine months, a search is in place for a new general manager after Darcy Regier was let go, and current head coach Ted Nolan is working under the interim tag.

The only question remaining is whether free agent-to-be Ryan Miller, 33, who has been the Sabres’ No. 1 goalie since 2005-06, will be traded during the season. Though his numbers are not great: 4-14-0 with a 3,11 goals-against average, he has been Buffalo’s best player during the team’s horrid 5-19-1 start. The Sabres have allowed 79 goals while scoring 44 in 25 games.

Buffalo’s youth movement is in full swing and it has shown.

While the roster is dotted with plenty of talented but inexperienced players who may fulfill expectations three or four years from now, the Sabres aren’t going to make the playoffs this season and may not make them next season either.

Buffalo is in line to miss the playoffs for the third straight season, five of the past seven and eight of the last 12 since the 2001-02 campaign.

Not counting the recent lockout season, the Sabres have averaged 44.6 wins per season since 2005-06. They are on a pace for an 18-win season.

The team’s defensive-zone coverage in games has been putrid, leaving Miller often to defend by himself.

The new regime has been firmly preaching more disciplined play and reducing mistakes and penalties.

But it’s a work in progress .

Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk, Brian Flynn, Luke Adam, Johan Larsson, Matt Hackett, Nikita Zadorov and Corey Tropp may develop as the Sabres’ nucleus in future years, but it’s going to take time.

The question is: will the fans who support the team be patient?

Trivia question: Which is the lone NFL team without either a defensive or special teams touchdown this season?

Richie Rich’s Top 10 in college football: 1. Alabama; 2. Florida State; 3. Ohio State; 4. Auburn; 5. Clemson; 6. Missouri; 7. Oklahoma State; 8. South Carolina; 9. Stanford; 10. Baylor.

Richie Rich’s Top 10 in the NFL: 1. Seahawks; 2. Saints; 3. Broncos; 4. Panthers; 5. Patriots; 6. 49ers (played Monday night); 7. Chiefs; 8. Bengals; 9. Eagles; 10. Cowboys.

Trivia answer: The 9-2 New Orleans Saints.

Times sports copy editor Richard Fyle can be reached at rfyle@wdt.net

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