I could not wait any longer, and I believe that the situation will remain the same. With two days until players begin reporting to Buffalo, and three days until training camp begins, the Buffalo Sabres' goaltending position is solid. Even with all the speculations of Ryan Miller being traded, Miller is still a member of the Buffalo Sabres. So this is what I have for the goaltenders:
Starter: Ryan Miller
Backup: Jhonas Enroth
The Top Two:
Nothing has changed with the Ryan Miller speculations since last week. I had written about a possible Miller for Paul Stastny trade happening, but now those winds have seemed to die out. This means Ryan Miller will be a Sabre to start the year. I do not mind it at all because Ryan Miller is still the franchise goaltender. Do I believe he will remain with the team after the trade deadline? It depends. If Buffalo is, realistically, in contention for a playoff spot, then the Sabres may hold on to Miller and try to work on a new contract. If Buffalo is playing like the typical "rebuilding" team, then Ryan Miller will probably get moved. Miller has his no movement clause that allows him to choose which teams he does not want to be traded to. He may have a list now, but what if a team that is contending needs Miller for their starting job? If the deal is good, and Miller says yes, the Sabres will not hesitate from pulling the trigger. Miller has been a proven starter ever since the 2005-06 season, with a 2.58 GAA and a .916 save percentage. His stats this past year were not impressive, but he still has the talent to be a great starting goaltender. Miller has not had the best defensive support in the past few years, but this year the Sabres are stacked full with defensemen. If they can improve and support Miller, I can see Miller putting up a solid year and help carry the team back to the playoffs.
Jhonas Enroth has been a liable backup behind Miller for the past three years. He has had stretches of play where he was a candidate for the starting job, and has had other stretches of putrid play. Enroth ended a 13-game losing streak back in March, in which he had not recorded a win since November of 2011. Since that game, Enroth went 3-2-1 in seven appearances with a 1.86 GAA .916 save percentage. Nice way to rebound after almost a year and a half of misery. Before the losing streak, Lindy Ruff had commented on having a "1A and 1B" starting tandem in net. Enroth was impressive, and almost had Ryan Miller running for the hills. Enroth seems to have found his game again, and could it help him beat out Miller for a starting job? I do not know yet, we will just have to see how the season goes in Buffalo. Enroth certainly does not want to be a backup forever, he wants to be the starter and win. If Miller is traded, he will then have his shot at a permanent starting roll.
When Jason Pominville was traded in April to Minnesota, Buffalo got Johan Larsson and goaltender Matt Hackett. Hackett, 23, has had 13 games experience in the NHL, all with the Minnesota Wild. In the 2011-12 season, Hackett was 3-6 with a 2.37 GAA and a .922 save percentage. In only one game last year with Minnesota, Hackett was rocked in a 5-3 loss to the Dallas Stars. In the 2012-13 AHL season with the Houston Aeros, Hackett went 19-20 in 43 games with a 2.66 GAA and a .907 save percentage. In Rochester, he played three regular season games, and went 3-0 with a 1.62 GAA and a .955 save percentage. With Miller and Enroth healthy and on the Sabres roster, there is no room for Hackett yet. But that will probably change this season. I see Hackett in a Sabres uniform in the 2013-14 season, unless another goaltender is brought in via trade. Will Matt Hackett work in Buffalo? I am looking forward to see how he does in Rochester and what he can bring to the table.
Connor Knapp and Nathan Lieuwen split the time in Rochester as backup to David Leggio until Matt Hackett was acquired. Knapp started the year as the backup, and in seven appearances went 1-6 with a 3.34 GAA and a .893 save percentage. When Knapp got injured, Lieuwen got the call to the Americans. Lieuwen went 1-2 in four appearances with a 2.65 GAA and a .919 save percentage. Both were sent to the Greenville Road Warriors of the ECHL when Hackett came in, and continued to develop there. Over the course of the next few years, both Knapp and Lieuwen need to develop more. Will they ever get the chance to make it to the NHL? It's possible, but not yet.
Andrey Makarov is possibly one of the more interesting names in the Sabres organization. Being signed as an undrafted free agent, Makarov was one of the more impressive goaltenders in the CHL over the past two years. Playing for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL, Makarov had an overall 2.82 GAA and an overall .916 save percentage. Last season, he recorded a 37-17-5 record in 61 games played. Makarov is going to have a chance to contend for the backup roll in Rochester. I could see him winning the roll over Knapp or Lieuwen, but he needs to develop alongside both of those two. Over time, Makarov could turn into a gem for the Buffalo Sabres.
Sunday is already the first preseason game in Montreal, and the first look at the young Sabres. Tonight, the Sabres prospects play the Red Wings prospects in the Traverse City Tournament championship game. I will do my best to take a listen to the game, and hope that the Sabres can repeat as champions. Until then, training camp begins Thursday, and we're now 23 days until the season opener in Detroit.
Be sure to follow me on Twitter @BraytonJWilson for more. Feel free to ask questions of comments below. I'll be back with more later.
As always, thanks for reading!