With training camps around the NHL just a couple weeks away, and a new season on the horizon, fans will have their burning questions about their favorite teams.
Thus is the same thing in Buffalo, where Sabres fans will have their big questions. Questions such as the new captain, or who forms the new first line. Here are the 4 burning questions likely to be on Sabres' fans minds.
1. Who takes the lead?
Ever since Chris Drury and Daniel Briere bolted town, fans have been asking who will be the next captain.
Fact is, even coach Lindy Ruff has no idea who will be his new captain. Much will rely on the status of defenseman Brain Campbell. Ruff prefers to have a captain that will be around for more than one year. If Campbell appears to, or has signed a new contract by the start of the season, Ruff may very well make him the next captain. Campbell is an outspoken leader in the room and a very good communicator. If Campbell is not the choice, Ruff could turn to Adam Mair. Mair, a tough, lunch pail player, is signed for the next 3 years and has shown a good sense of leadership since his arrival in 2001.
But dont count out veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen or center Paul Gaustad. Both players are strong candidates to be wearing a letter come October 5th.
2. Is Ryan Miller a shutdown goaltender?
While many people didnt notice the fact during last years run, Millers numbers dropped from 05-06 despite his 40 win season.
But when he got to the playoffs, Miller was a force, going save for save with Henrik Lundqvist against the Rangers, and being the only bright spot in an otherwise dreadful ECF against the Senators.
With Ruff promising a more defensive style with a bit less rushing, Miller should have some more help in front of him this season. With his abilities and the right help, Miller could feasibly contend for a Vezina Trophy.
3. Who's #1?
With Briere gone, the need arises for a new Number 1 line to step up. The days of 4 Number 1 line seem to be over as the Sabres will have a bit more of a spread out offensive attack this season. the team however still has several very talented offensive players to spread across the top 3 lines.
The likely first line will include new high spenders Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy. Vanek and his $52 million contract will be expected to put up numbers very similar or better than his 43 goal, 84 point season last year. he will likely be joined by new number 1 center Derek Roy and either Maxim Afinogenov or last years rookie surprise Drew Stafford.
The second line will likely feature Tim Connolly with one of Afinogenov and Stafford and possibly Jason Pominville, who has been working on a possible switch over to the left wing. If it is not Pominville, then Ruff may decide to try and reignite Ales Kotalik with Connolly and Max, and pair Poms with former linemate Jochen Hecht and Paul Gaustad, who many are expecting to be a 20 goal scorer with more responsibility.
4. The Blue line woes
Last years playoffs showed the Sabres really needed a top flight pairing to step up and shut down the big lines. While Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman are a solid pairing, the team will need a much more consistent showing from defenseman such as Dmitri Kalinin and free agent dissapointment Jaro Spacek.
Nathan Paetsch's new contract makes it look like he will be a regular in the top 6, likely leaving one of Spacek or Kalinin in the dark as the 7th defenseman. Kalinin, whos stock has been dropping rapidly the past few years, may need the camp of his life to avoid being traded or subject to waivers. He will likely feel the heat from several young defenseman battling for a spot in Rochester, his main competition being young stud Andrej Sekera.
if there are any you think that I missed, list them below and give me your feedback. Ill be happy to respond and comment on any questions or comments.