After what seems like forever, a new season for the Buffalo Sabres is finally here. I don’t need to tell you what everyone is saying about the Sabres chances this season. Right now, many of you may agree with those saying Buffalo doesn’t stand a chance. To be honest, I don’t see Buffalo as being cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference.
There are several questions rambling around in the minds of Sabres fans as tomorrow night approaches. So, let’s take a look, shall we?
Who steps up offensively for Buffalo?
We all know that Vanek and Hodgson can score. Granted, Hodgson isn’t the greatest on defense, but we’ll get to that later. However, teams don’t succeed with just 2 guys to provide the majority of their offense. Last year, Buffalo struggled to have everyone contribute offensively. This year, if Buffalo wants to win, they need secondary offensive players to step up and start scoring. Players like Ennis, Stafford and Leino will need to find their scoring touch this season. Once Foligno and Tropp are healthy, they’ll need to get in on it too.
I left Mikhail Grigorenko out of that last paragraph for a reason. He is in a category in and of himself. Regier has already let it be known that Grigorenko is going to be in Buffalo for 82 games. While I don’t necessarily agree with that, this is Grigorenko’s opportunity. He is going to be with new line mates and shouldn’t be on the bottom line for the Sabres with Kaleta and Scott. Grigorenko has a great chance to prove that he can play NHL hockey. He has a new coach and there is a lot of rumblings that he has improved his speed and his play in the off season. However, it’s time to show the Buffalo faithful what he can really do.
Luckily, the fate of this team doesn’t just rely on one forward. Several players need to join in scoring this year. The nice thing is there’s potential to have several 20 goal scorers on this team, which makes it tough to defend.
That being said, Buffalo still needs to deliver.
What comes next?
Let’s talk defense.
Buffalo’s defense is extremely different from last years starting roster. Pysyk, McBain, Tallinder, and Ristolainen were both in different cities (1 a different country) last year at the start of the season. The defense is bigger and stronger, the shortest players being McBain and Pysyk at 6’1”. Buffalo needs to start using their size to make it difficult for opposing players.
However, the questions don’t necessarily surround how the defense will play as a whole, but how specific defensemen will do.
Tyler Myers is, like normal, on the hot seat. To a degree, he is still trying to climb out of the shadow that he put himself in with his phenomenal rookie season. He is still a good defenseman. However, Myers needs to show that he can regain his offensive touch, but also that he is able to be physical in his own end. He showed glimmers last year, but at 6’8”, he has the ability to make it very painful and difficult for opposing defenders to enter the Sabres zone.
Ristolainen comes to Buffalo, makes the team, and will be in the lineup tomorrow night. How will he do playing NHL hockey? Many people are anxious to find out, including myself. I’m ready to see if he can be the lock down defender we’ve all heard of, who also has the ability to blast one past opposing goalies. Zadorov is currently hurt, but it looks like he is going to get a shot in Buffalo this season as well. I look forward to seeing Zadorov in action as well.
With all these defensemen, eventually there will be a trade made. That one I’m willing to bet on. Buffalo has far too many, and come the trade deadline, may be able to make some good moves.
I’ll wrap up with this one- What is going to happen with Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller???
It’s well known that Miller and Vanek were rumored to be headed out of Buffalo this past season. However, they’re both in blue and gold as tomorrow night crawls ever closer. What does that mean for Buffalo? I think that they’re the two pieces that are going to keep the Sabres in the playoff hunt come March and April of this year. Miller and Vanek will keep the Sabres in game, and could potentially keep Buffalo in the race. However, they aren’t going to put Buffalo in the playoffs.
If Buffalo is still in the race, Miller and Vanek don’t go anywhere. If Buffalo is still in the race and Enroth has performed admirably, maybe Miller gets traded and the Sabres ride Enroth to end out the season. I don’t see Vanek being moved unless Buffalo really sits at the bottom of the conference come the deadline. Again, it all depends on how Buffalo does.
We will all start to get a picture as to how the Sabres will do as the weeks unfold.
Ending wise, I figured I’d go with some predictions for the season (just for the heck of it).
End Of Season- Buffalo will finish between 8th and 12th place. With having Vanek and Miller on the roster, they will keep Buffalo in the chase. However, they are not going to be enough. Buffalo will once again be too good to get a top 5 draft pick, not good enough to make the playoffs. Based on this, Buffalo will be in the hunt at the deadline, Vanek and Miller go nowhere.
However, the youth for the Sabres get a lot of experience, and start to demonstrate it as the season progresses. Pending on how the Sabres do, maybe next year they creep into the playoffs with the youngsters. Remember, we’re supposedly building towards the future.
MVP- Ryan Miller. The defense will be better in front of him, and hopefully he will be able to reap the benefits. I see Miller being MVP.
Captains- I know, already named. I like the concept. The veteran’s lead the team with Vanek, Ott, and Ehrhoff. I think these 3 are the right choices to help groom this youthful team.
Player To Watch- Zemgus Girgensons. I got to watch him play in Rochester last year and it was a joy. This kid has great potential. He’s a solid 2 way player, and I think he’s going to be a valuable asset to the penalty kill. He may be one of the players that surprises a lot of people this year.
At this point in time, I, like everyone else, am counting down to tomorrow night. I think it’s best to end with this thought;
LET’S GO BUFFALO!
Follow me on Twitter- @SabresBTB I live chat during most games, as well as provide updates on the team and the Rochester Amerks.
As always, thanks for reading!