Wednesday, September 7, 2011

NHL 30 in 30: Buffalo Sabres

Even though the Sabres had a bad series against the Flyers, the combination of Ryan Miller and timely scoring extended the series to 7 games. Pegulaville 2011 is now fully stocked and ready to go, so will the new ownership spur a change in fortune and get the Sabres out of the first round of the postseason for the first time since 2006?

Strengths: Pegula's mere presence provided a spark to the entire organization, and enabled them to go on a spending spree this offseason. Robyn Regehr is the shut down defenseman that Lindy Ruff has wanted for so long, and he should anchor the shut down portion of the defense. Christian Erhoff comes over from Vancouver to captain the power play, and he got a nice payday to come with it. Ville Leino takes his puck handling skills over from Philadelphia to help find some more offensive spark, along with Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, and Tyler Ennis. The Sabres are not known to score so many goals, but they should see an uptick in that department this season. They have a better set of defense pairings this season, and now that they have specific shut down and power play guys, the offense and defense should both see upswings this year. And of course, there is Ryan Miller, who is very, very good.

Weaknesses: There are questions still for this team. For one, what is Brad Boyes? He's probably not a center, so what is he? A low line winger perhaps, or even better, a cap casualty. Jochen Hecht is also a player that may struggle to find a defined role in Lindy Ruff's system. Another cap casualty, and with his penchant for injuries, he may not even see past training camp.

Any Help Coming? LW Marcus Foligno is coming on as a good left wings prospect, and may possibly make the team this season. Luke Adam is a promising center prospect, who may also challenge for a roster spot this season. RW Zach Kassian may be the most promising prospect the Sabres currently have in their system, and he should make the big club this season. He is a power forward prospect, and can crash the net, which the Sabres need this season.

Outlook: The Sabres are light-years better than the team that nearly made the second round a year ago. This should be a fun year for Sabres fans desperate to see some movement upward. They should see that this season. They may not be better than Boston, but they will be much, much better. The Pegula influence has been noticed, and felt, throughout hockey, not just in western New York.

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