Season Preview: Buffalo Sabres

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After missing the playoffs by three points, the Buffalo Sabres look for redemption in the upcoming season.

Finishing 9th in the Eastern Conference, the Sabres season was cut short and their playoff dreams were dashed. GM Darcy Regier felt that his team lacked a balance between physicality and skill, and traded Derek Roy to the Dallas Stars in exchange for Steve Ott.

Other than re-signing players, the Sabres offseason has been relatively quiet (with the exception of the Dallas trade).

Notable Signings/Trades

 

  • Center Mikhail Grigorenko was signed to an entry-level contract on July 18th.
  • Right winger Mark Mancari was signed to a 1-year contract on July 6th.
  • Center Kevin Porter was signed to a 1-year contract on July 6th
  • Left wing John Scott was signed to a 1-year contract on July 1st.
  • Center Derek Roy was traded to the Dallas Stars for center Steve Ott and defensemen Adam Pardy on July 2nd.

Projected Lineup

 

Forwards

Cody Hodgson

Thomas Vanek - Cody Hodgson - Jason Pominville

Ville Leino – Steve Ott – Drew Stafford

Marcus Foligno – Tyler Ennis - Corey Tropp

Nathan Gerbe – Luke Adam – Patrick Kaleta

 

Defenseman

Tyler Myers – Christian Ehrhoff

Jordan Leopold – Andrej Sekera

Robyn Regehr – Adam Pardy

Alexander Sulzer

 

Goaltenders

Ryan Miller

Jhonas Enroth

 

Why They’ll Win

 

Steve Ott

Added Toughness

In adding Steve Ott, the Sabres have gotten a player that is willing to drop the gloves when called upon. For instance, during the “Lucic-Miller” incident last season, no one dropped the gloves with Lucic after the hit. Sure, there was some pushing and shoving, but no one truly took a stand against him until the next game, when Gaustad took quite the beating from Lucic. By adding Steve Ott (as well as John Scott, who is not expected to crack the Sabres lineup this year), Buffalo will have the tools necessary to stick up for themselves, and will send a message to those that believe they will back down.

Cody Hodgson and the Top-3 Forwards

After being traded to the Sabres from the Canucks last year, Hodgson put up 8 points in 20 games for Buffalo as a rookie. Counting his totals from Vancouver as well, Hodgson put up numbers of 19-22-41. This year, the sophomore is projected to be playing on Buffalo’s 1st line, centering Thomas Vanek and Jason Pominville. If the 22-year-old center is able to keep up with Vanek and Pominville (26 and 30-goal scorers, respectively), the Sabres should have a top line of goal scoring talent to go along with their newly-acquired grit and toughness, making them a force to be reckoned with.

Why They’ll Lose

 

Bottom 9 Forwards

While the Sabres have a powerful 1st line, the other half of their top-6 is lacking. Leino, Ott, and Stafford had a combined 39 goals last year, 36 tallies behind the combined total of Vanek, Hodgson, and Pominville. While most teams have 1st and 2nd lines for scoring, the Sabres only have one player on their 2nd line that scored 20 goals (Stafford). All this from a team that was 17th last year in goals scored. Lack of experience in the Sabres’ 3rd line is also troublesome, with only 188 games played between Foligno, Ennis, and Tropp. Not only that, Ennis is the only one on the 3rd line to have played a full season in the NHL. Their 4th line, which would be most teams physical/energy line, contains Nathan Gerbe, who clocks in at 5’5″ (making him the shortest player in the NHL). While this does not necessarily mean that he isn’t physical, it certainly makes taking on that role a lot tougher. Buffalo ranked 29th in hits last season, and even with Ott, are still not epitome of physicality. With a bottom-9 that lacks goal scoring talent, experience, and physicality (with Kaleta and Ott as the exceptions), the Sabres are depending on their 1st line to pull an exceptional amount of weight in the upcoming season.

 

Verdict

 

Miss the Playoffs

Even though the Sabres have upgraded with Cody Hodgson in their 1st line, their lack of offensive depth beyond that is too much to over come. Although they have a strong goaltending duo in Miller and Enroth, Buffalo needs to be able to score goals consistently. And with only a 1st line of goal-scorers, the Sabres seem to have sacrificed their 2nd-line in the name of toughness, rather than what a top line should have (scoring ability). Until the Sabres realize that they need to score to win, don’t expect them to be in the playoffs.

 

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