It's been a wild and crazy off season... It's taken some adjusting to, especially as a Buffalo fan. I'm not complaining, don't get me wrong, I'm just not used to it. Buffalo signing players they should, trying to improve the team? FINALLY!!!!!
Now, I've seen a lot of people making predictions as to what is going to happen with the upcoming season. I stand by this right now, don't look for that here. I say this for a few reasons. Number one, I know the Buffalo Sabres. Very Well. Emphasis on that. This is my favorite team, and the one I follow with a dedicated (almost obsessive my fiance would argue) passion. Number two, I don't know any other teams half as well as I know the Sabres. Based on these 2 facts, it'd be wrong of me to say that the LA Kings aren't going to win because, well, they're the Kings. Especially since I don't know that team well. So, lets stick with Buffalo for now.
Buffalo has made a ton of moves in the off season, and despite what many people have said, I see the Sabres as a serious threat to many teams this year. First off all, the weakest link on the team is now playing for Toronto. I've got no problems with this what so ever. He should have been gone 2 years ago, but instead he got a 9 million dollar deal. I have said it before, and I continue to say that Connolly was an overrated, over paid player for the Buffalo Sabres. In all honesty, I think he held the team back. Getting rid of him was a blessing. Also, Montador, Niedermayer, and Butler are gone. I think numerous people would agree that even though these are good players, the Sabres replaced them with better ones.
Second, Buffalo has made some key additions to this team, namely on defense. They have brought in 2 top defenders to tighten up the back end and give Ryan Miller some extra protection. I stand by the fact that Robyn Regher and Christian Ehrhoff have made the Sabres defense better. Buffalo had one major problem last season, and a lot of little ones. The big problem, once their opponents got the puck in their end, they were able to keep it there. Buffalo had enormous amount of difficulty clearing the puck, and setting up break out plays. After watching footage of Ehrhoff and Regher, I at least believe this problem will improve. I believe that the Sabres will now move out of their zone a little quicker than last season, and make better passes. The defense the Sabres have is now probably one of the top defense's in the Eastern Conference. I, like many others, think Miller is going to have a very good year, based on the fact that the Sabres defense has improved.
While speaking of defense, something that the Sabres need to improve is the defensive play of their forwards. You can't always score goals, sometimes you need to help out your D-Men. Last year, Buffalo forwards at times looked like chickens with their heads cut off, on skates, in their own end. That can't happen this year. If Buffalo wants to make a serious run, it starts in their own end. Offense wins games, but the defense wins you championships.
Third, Buffalo's offense is locked in. I would rather have 5-6 players who can score 20-30 goals, than 2 40 goal scorers. Buffalo has enormous depth on offense right now, and it displays itself in 3-4 lines that have the potential to score. Leino, I've heard a lot of things, but time will tell with him. Will he deliver? I think that is the million dollar question going into this season. He has potential, he really does, but if he doesn't come through, people will forget Tim Connolly quickly, and Ville Leino will be the next hated man in Buffalo.
Fourth, Buffalo has a ton of depth in Rochester now... God it feels good to say that... Buffalo has depth in Rochester... Insert content sigh here. If someone gets hurt, or their game goes in the dumper, help is an hour away from players like Adam, Kassian, Armia, and Brennan.
You're not going to get one. I haven't seen any of these new re-vamped NHL teams hit the ice yet. On paper, do I have some favorites, yes. The Sabres, I'm not going to lie, are in there, as well as the Capitals, Lightening, and Bruins in the East. In the West, Detroit (as always), Vancouver, and my sleeper, the Wild may make some rumblings this year. However, this means nothing now. It's all speculation, and I like to make decisions on fact/evidence. Lets wait til the season gets going.
However, I think I'm going to stick to talking about the team I know, and other aspects of hockey that I know. I won't tell the Leafs or the Habs that their teams are going to just barely get into the playoffs or not make the playoffs... Because to be honest, I just don't know. Plus, as a Sabres fan, I have a natural bias towards those teams anyway. I know that if I said that the Habs are going to finish in dead last, their fans will read this and say "psh, what's that Sabres fan know?" So like I said, I'll stick to the Sabres, and the aspects of hockey that I know.
For my actual playoff predictions, lets just wait until we see how the season goes. Any hockey fan should know, some teams manage to surprise you. Also, when I make my predictions, I will give reasons for each and everyone one of them. I just need my info first, and that information hasn't been provided yet, since the season starts in October, and I'm writing this in September.
Before I finish, and most importantly, my thoughts are with the families of the 3 NHL players who have passed away this season; Derek Boogaard, Ryan Rypien, and Wade Belak. Sometimes peoples inner demons get the best of them. My condolences to their families and loved ones.
Finally, as I'm sure fans of every NHL team will look at this blog at some point, I think that going into this season, there's one thing we can all agree on;
The 2011-2012 season can't start soon enough!!!!!