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SABRES' CHECKLIST DREW SOME BLANKS AT TRADE DEADLINE

I never think of trade deadline day as a final test for a hockey general manager.

Final judgment should always be reserved for what a GM's team does in the playoffs.

But if you look at Darcy Regier's deadline-day work as a third-quarter exam, the Buffalo Sabres general manager did no better than C-.

Regier went to the deadline with a wish list that included size, toughness, some scoring off the wing, some defensive help and, at coach Lindy Ruff's request, an emotional upgrade.

That's a list Santa Claus couldn't fill, but we expected more than what was delivered.

Regier did manage to address the team's toughness question when he picked up Paul Kruse from the New York Islanders, but he got little more than a willing but not always effective banger. Kruse is a third- or fourth-line player of lesser skill than Brad May, the player Regier traded away for the not-yet-effective Geoff Sanderson.

Getting a prospect -- Jason Holland -- thrown into the deal is good. Despite some trashing in New York, Holland is a well-regarded defensive prospect who appears to have an NHL future.

The problem is he's of no help now. Though Jason Dawe can be classified as an inconsistent player who sometimes played without passion, he still averaged 23-25 goals a year since becoming an NHL regular. You don't trade away those goals without replacing them.

I suspect Regier had a Matthew Barnaby deal in mind to address that. Many sources around the league support that, but no deal was done.

Initial returns indicate the Sabres shopped Barnaby as the player he was two seasons ago. The rest of the league appears to have viewed him as the player he has become.

In the end, it appears Regier opted not to give him away. He should get credit for that, but now the Sabres have to deal with it.

Patching the Barnaby "problem" won't be easy. Ruff made it clear Barnaby's time here had passed. The fallout is that relations between the two are strained. If they work together for the greater good of the team, great. But if not, Barnaby will be eating popcorn in the press box.

A useful Barnaby is important for the Sabres because he can play with emotion, and in an evenly matched playoff round, emotion is critical. When Barnaby uses it -- and uses it with control -- the Sabres are a better team. They showed that last spring when Barnaby, May, Rob Ray and others developed a reputation as wild and crazy guys other teams hated to play against.

That chemistry seems lost now.

Offense is another problem for the Sabres. Regier said he was comfortable moving Dawe because it opens up more ice time for the players still here.

That's true in regard to Donald Audette, a veteran in whom you know what you get. But Miroslav Satan, the new No. 1 right winger, is still young and inconsistent. Ruff benched him earlier this season and he had a spotty playoff performance last season, so spotty that in addition to being in the hospital with an appendicitis episode, he was benched.

Despite his reputation of having twice been a 40-plus goal scorer, Sanderson hasn't been a productive scorer for any of three teams this season. He also has all of one playoff goal in his career and hardly is playoff tested, having been out of the playoffs the past six seasons.

Vaclav Varada, the player Regier said replaces Dawe, has never played an NHL playoff game, let alone scored a playoff goal. Michal Grosek has nearly dropped off the face of the scoring world. Michael Peca, arguably the Sabres' No. 1 center this season, is a fast developing gem, but he has as many NHL playoff goals as Wayne Primeau and Curtis Brown combined: none.

Before the deadline Regier talked of trading Barnaby, making deals to fill needs and maybe even renting a veteran player or two to support the current cast. It didn't happen.

That leaves the time between now and the postseason almost entirely in the hands of Dominik Hasek. It would be nice if he had received a little help.

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