Despite a disappointing conclusion to the Sabres season it was one of, if not the best season in Franchise history. The Sabres have played in the Stanley Cup finals twice but had never won the Presidents Trophy in franchise history. The Stanley Cup is obviously the most coveted prize but it is equally as difficult to be the best team in the league over an 82 game span. I will do my best to break down the team by position.
This was obviously the strong part of this years team. They led the league in total goals for scoring 308 on the season and had four players score at least 30 goals. The players who scored 30 goals played on three different lines which is a testament to the teams depth. Daniel Briere had a career year with 32 goals and 63 assists for 95 points, Thomas Vanek had a career high 43 goals and Chris Drury had 37 goals including 17 on the power play. The Sabres received contributions from everyone on the team including youngsters like Drew Stafford and Daniel Paille who both appear to have a promising future ith the team.
The defense was an under-rated unit in my opinion. They received some unwarranted criticism due to the aggresive style the Sabres play. Brian Campbell has been steadily improving and is arguably the Sabres most valuable defenseman. Campbell has improved considerably in the defensive zone and continues to excel in the offensive zone. The pairing of Tallinder and Lydman are fairly solid defensively but were exposed by the Ottawa Seantors in the playoffs. It was a disappointing season for free agent aquisition Jaroslav Spacek who brought in to man the power play. Spacek struggled a bit early in the season was probably utilized improperly at the end of the season and in the playoffs. Dmitri Kalinin is a guy I do not understand, at times he is the best defenseman on the team and other times you watch and say huh… what the hell is he doing? Admit it you’ve said that before about him.
Obviously the focus is on Ryan Miller because Martin Biron played only sparingly before being traded at the trade deadline and Ty Conklin played in only a couple of games after being acquired at the deadline. Miller has the potential to be one of the best goalies in the league. I sometimes think he is over-prepared and over-thinks the game. Miller will make all the tough saves but will then let in a couple of softies. He also has a stretch in every season where he plays poorly. Miller is still young and there is every inclination that he will be one of the best goalies in the league, if he isn’t already. Miller needs to add a little bit of consistency to his game before he really deserves that honor. Miller thrives in the Sabres system of allowing odd-man rushes because he is excellent on breakaways and in shootouts.
It is obvious to just about every Sabres fan that Lindy Ruff is an excellent coach. He has proven that he can change his strategy based on the talent he has and he usually knows what buttons to push with his players. Lindy won the Jack Adams Trophy last season and is a finalist again this season for a very good reason. I thought that Lindy was out-coached in this years playoffs for the first time. I thought the Sabres went away from the system that led them to their first ever Presidents Trophy and went back to the way they won in previous years. The problem with that was this team was not built to win that way, they needed to keep playing their game. I think I can speak for all Sabres fans when I say that there isn’t another coach I would want instead of Lindy. I would expect that Lindy has learned from this years playoff loss and will be an even better coach now.
Overall I would say this was the best season in Sabres history. It was a disappointing conclusion but that does not take away from the excitement this team brought for seven months. The team will have some interesting decisions to make in the offseason but I would expect most of the players to return and we will hopefully build on this season.
Read more at http://buffalosportstampede.com/