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.
Excellent read, CP. For the captain issue, I really don't know who'd I'd pick, noweone stands out from the rest and it's difficult to say... Buffalo might go captain-less come October to April, then next season it would be an easier choice. Ryan Miller is a shutdown goalie IMO, Buffalo's defense ain't exactly breathtaking and Miller steals alot of games for them throught the course of the season. For me, #1 is Connolly if healthy. He's uber talented and with right linemates he could gey huge points... more so than Roy but again.... if healthy. As for #4, all I can say is I agree. With no changes to the D I'm expecting the same performance as last season with Miller holding the fort through the rough times.
I hope nobody suggests Vanek to be the captain, since he's there for a long time. There isn't a bonifide captain in Buffalo, and Campbell would probably be the safest bet. Although, you could give it to Numminen but he wont be around for much longer.
great job capt
Great post but how about this......Dump Spacek and , as ek seems to think, pick up warrener and he takes the "C".........
As you all know it's pool time. Just wondering what you see the Buffalo power play looking like. I've seen a couple of different ideas, connolly playing the point with Campbell.....etc. Any thoughts?
Grant. Just spitballing here, but this is what i think may be the PP Lines:Vanek-Connolly-AfinogenovCampbell-PominvilleHecht-Roy-StaffordKotalik-Spacek
Nice post. My number 1 questions is about Connolly... Does he score 120 or 140 points?
I am more concerned about the Sabre's defense than who will be captain. It Teppo is far past his prime and Kalinin belongs in the Juniors of in Europe.I'd like to see the Sabres pick a a couple of good journeymen defencemen either through trade or free agency.The 2007 playoffs demonstrated that defence, except for Ryan Miller, is the Sabres Achilles heal.
Excellent job. For some reason I see Teppo getting the C. Just because he wore the A before and he is an experiances Vet. Though I wouldnt mind seeing Brian Campbell get it IF he signs long term or Adam Mair. Ryan Miller like every goaltender is only as good as their Def. Yes he won 40 games but a lot of that were comebacks and or 7-5 wins etc. Which leads me to our Def. I still think a move needs to be made. Markov is out there but we will only trade at this point and Warrener would fit the bill perfect as to what we are looking for. As for a top line I would have to think that Vanek is apart of it...Regier and Quinn mentioned that their decision not to bring Briere back had to do with Connolly so I can see him bring on the 1st line as well. I can see Max up there too but part of me feels a trade still may be in the works...again great blog man..enjoy reading your stuff.
I think, as a group, we can find an alternative to "burning" which is utilized way to much. Nice read though. The C debate will rage but I will put my money on Teppo, for the following reason only. Stafford will wear it when Teppo leaves. Vanek, Roy, Timmy, Max...all nice choices... Good players for sure. But you will all see that Stafford will replace what Drury brought to the table about 10 games into the season