Ken Campbell's giddiness and Cunneyworth's importance
Writer Ken Campbell of The Hockey News busted out his crystal ball today proclaiming that the Buffalo Sabres will win the Stanley Cup in the year 2020.
He figures that the Sabres will once again draft high in 2015 and then start their march to the Cup in earnest from there.
Campbell even goes full fantasy by giving ink to the perfect scenario (dream) which would have the NY Islanders finish 29th giving Buffalo the top two picks in the 2015 Draft. He asked one scout what it would mean if the Sabres were able to draft both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, to which the scout replied, "Might as well hand them the Stanley Cup in five years if that happens."
That the Sabres have been stockpiling draft picks is a given.
Eight picks in 2012 including two firsts and a second. Eleven picks in 2013 including two firsts, three seconds and a third rounder (Nicholas Baptiste) who has already been signed to his entry level contract.
And at the draft in Philadelphia last month Buffalo had nine picks including the 2nd overall pick (Sam Reinhart) and three second rounders.
All this will be for naught if the team fails to develop their talent properly.
Back in November of last year when owner Terry Pegula blew up the Darcy Regier-era, Pat LaFontaine along with new head coach Ted Nolan put the organization in full reset-mode, sending nearly every youngin back to their respective levels for further development.
When talking about the importance of player development, Campbell taps into one of the best organizations in sports, quoting Detroit Red Wings coach Mike Babcock. Wrote Campbell "It was interesting to hear Babcock say, that when a team drafts a player and he fails to pan out, some of the responsibility for that has to go to the team that drafted him for not developing him into an NHL player."
Which makes Randy Cunneyworth probably the most important man in the Sabres organization right now.
Cunneyworth has a long history with the Buffalo Sabres.
He began his career as a eighth round pick (167th overall) of the Sabres in the 1980 Entry Draft and spent the next five seasons with Buffalo and Rochester.
After bouncing around for the next dozen-plus years he landed back in Buffalo organization. He was a player/assistant coach for the Rochester before retiring in 2000 to take over as head coach of the Amerks.
During his head coaching tenure, he coached and developed Regier's "core," or "the Rochester Guys" as Sabres President Ted Black put it.
The group of five players--Ryan Miller, Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville, and Paul Gaustad--would lead the Amerks to the best record in the AHL during the 2004-05 season before falling in the second round.
Of those five players, only Vanek was drafted in the first round (2003, 5th overall.) Miller was a 5th round pick (1999, #138.) Both Roy (#32) and Pominville (#55) were second round picks in 2001 while Gaustad was a seventh-rounder in 2000.
Cunneyworth left in 2008 to start his NHL coaching journey but found himself back in the Sabres fold as then GM Regier hired him as a pro scout for the team in November, 2013.
On January 8, 2014 Cunneyworth was promoted to Special Assistant and Player Development Coach--the main player development conduit between Rochester and Buffalo.
That is his present position with the organization but Murray seems to have other things in mind saying that Cunneyworth has been offered an unspecified job and the he's waiting for Cunneyworth to "get back to him."
Murray is a talent-evaluator having spent his career in the scouting area and he knows the value of proper player development. "Murray," writes Campbell, "[knows that] this is where the true talent evaluation skills come to the fore."
As we head into the next few seasons with visions of fairy plums dancing in our heads and the reality of a bottom-dwelling Sabres team continually slapping us in the face, it's the development of the youngins that will keep us going.
Without that development, Buffalo could end up a lottery team for a long time.
Odds are that won't happen as just the sheer number of first and second rounders will eventually bring respectability to the roster.
But a Stanley Cup in 2020?
Easy there, Ken.