For the first time since the 2011-12 season, the Sabres will be playing a full 82 games. The schedule was released yesterday afternoon, just hours after the NHL had announced that NHL players would be allowed to play in the Sochi Olympics in February of 2014. Here are some of the dates to look forward to this season:
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Oct. 2 @ Detroit
Oct. 4 vs. Ottawa
Oct. 12 @ Chicago
Oct. 14 vs. Minnesota
Oct. 19 vs. Colorado
Oct. 28 vs. Dallas
Nov. 15 vs. Toronto
Mar. 9 vs. Chicago
Mar. 11 vs. Nashville
October 2nd is when the season opens up for the Sabres, and they play their newest division rivals the Detroit Red Wings. The Red Wings were able to stock up on Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss this offseason and look to dominate the Eastern Conference. The Sabres home opener is against the Ottawa Senators on October 4th, where Bobby Ryan comes to Buffalo sporting the Senators uniform. Also, former Sabre Clarke MacArthur returns to Buffalo in a Sens jersey instead of a Leafs uniform. On October 12th, Buffalo goes to Chicago to play the defending Stanley Cup champions at the "Mad House on Madison". October 14th is Jason Pominville's return to Buffalo in a Minnesota Wild uniform. October 19th is the showcase of Colorado's 1st overall pick, Nathan MacKinnon. November 15th is the first time David Clarkson and the Toronto Maple Leafs come to Buffalo. March 9th, Buffalo plays host to the Chicago Blackhawks. And on March 11th, Paul Gaustad comes back to Buffalo sporting the Nashville emblem on his chest.
October 28th is the one game I'm looking forward to the most with the return of Lindy Ruff to Buffalo. Ruff, who spent nearly 15 seasons behind the Sabres bench, will bring his Dallas Stars to Buffalo with some new faces leading the way. Tyler Seguin will be sporting the Stars new logo on his chest as well as Shawn Horcoff, Sergei Gonchar, and Valeri Nichushkin. I expect the reception to be tremendous for Lindy Ruff, who still is very beloved to many in Buffalo.
The NHL's realignment plan has four new divisions amongst the two conferences: Central and Pacific in the West and Atlantic and Metropolitan in the East. In Buffalo's division (Atlantic), Buffalo has been placed with Boston, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, and Toronto. Each team this offseason made some significant splashes during the offseason by either the draft, trade market, or free agency. The only team that didn't make a significant splash in the offseason so far? The Buffalo Sabres. Don't think you can call Ristolainen and Zadorov being drafted big splashes, or the Sekera and Tallinder trade neither. Boston traded Seguin and signed Iginla, Detroit signed Alfie and Weiss, Florida drafted Sasha Aleksander Barkov, Montreal signed Briere, Ottawa acquired Bobby Ryan to replace Alfredsson, Tampa Bay drafted Drouin and signed Filppula, and Toronto signed David Clarkson and acquired Dave Bolland.
Drafting Risto and Zadorov bolstered our defense, but what moves have we made to improve our offense? Well, we waived Nathan Gerbe, Jochen Hecht retired, re-signed John Scott, and recently re-signed Brian Flynn. Cody Hodgson remains unsigned, and Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller remain on the roster. How's the "re-build" going Darcy? Not so good so far. Building the young core is okay, but many guys are still some time away from being NHL ready. But don't worry, there's still time remaining this offseason for something to happen (don't get your hopes up too much).
So where does this leave the season for Buffalo? I believe Ryan Miller will still somehow get traded this offseason, Vanek remains with Buffalo until the trade deadline, and guys like Zemgus Girgensons, Joel Armia, Johan Larsson, and possibly Rasmus Ristolanen could get their first crack at the NHL. What is their record going to be? Here's what I think:
33 wins, 40 loses, 9 OT / SO losses = 75 points
75 points would probably be one of the worse totals in the NHL, and would most likely lead to a top 5 pick in the 2014 NHL Draft.
This team is young in talent and young in coaching, which will lead to the year of suffering for Sabres fans. Darcy will probably keep his job again after the season. He should be fired if he lets one of the big names (Vanek or Miller) walk in free agency and get nothing in return. Should've learned that by now with what happened to Briere and Drury. Am I looking forward to this year? Of course. But I am thoroughly prepared for what is going to most likely happen this season. Brace yourself everyone.
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