We’re going to take a look at each NHL team, breaking down every new addition and subtraction, as well as promising prospects.
Today, we take a look at the Buffalo Sabres.
By: Andy Hughes (@PensNation_Andy)
2013 Season: 21-21-6, 48 pts (5th NorthEast Division, 12th Eastern Conference)
Free Agents Signed:
D Drew Bagnall from Minnesota
RW Jamie Tardif from Boston
Jamie McBain could be seeing time on Buffalo’s top defensive pairing this season. (Scott Audette/Getty Images)
Free Agents Lost:
D Alex Biega to Vancouver
LW Nathan Gerbe to Carolina
C Jochen Hecht to Germany
G David Leggio to Washington
RW Mark Mancari to St. Louis
D Adam Pardy to Winnipeg
D Drew Schiestel to Hamilton
LW Nick Tarnasky to Montreal
D Andrej Sekera to Carolina for D Jamie McBain and a 2nd-round pick
LW Riley Boychuk to New Jersey for D Henrik Tallinder
C Mikhail Grigorenko
D Rasmus Ristolainen
RW Joel Armia
C Zemgus Girgensons
D Mark Pysyk
The culture of the Buffalo Sabres has changed quite a bit in the last year. Coach Lindy Ruff was fired in February after the Sabres started the 2013 season wit ha 6-10-1 record. Ruff had been the Sabres’ head coach since 1997 and was replaced by Ron Rolston, who had previously coached for the Rochester Americans. Buffalo finished with a 15-11-5 record under Rolston. With a good finish to last season, Rolston hopes to bring more success in the 2013-14 season. One of his first moves of the offseason was bringing in former Colorado Avalanche coach Joe Sacco as an assistant. The coaching staff was not the only department where major changes were made.
Before the NHL trade deadline last season, Buffalo traded RW Jason Pominville, D Jordan Leopold and D Robyn Regehr. The team immediately became one of the youngest teams in the NHL and they will remain there at the start of 2013-14 season. C Mikhail Grigorenko will be one guy to watch for the Sabres this year as the 19-year-old looks to build off his rookie season where he recorded 5 points in 25 games. Grigorenko, who was selected by Buffalo 12th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft, will most likely have a larger role with the team this year as their second line center. Young forwards Tyler Ennis and Marcus Foligno also plan on having larger roles with Buffalo this season. While the Sabres are going through a rebuilding phase, they still have LW Thomas Vanek and G Ryan Miller on their roster. Both players have been the subject of trade rumors for quite some time as they are both going into their final year of their contracts. Vanek led the Sabres last season in goals (20), assists (21) and points (41). Miller had his worst statistical season of his career by recording a 17-17-5 record in addition to a 2.81 goals-against average. He was very inconsistent throughout last season and may pack his bags for another NHL team this year before the trade deadline. The same goes for Vanek if the right deal comes along. RW Ville Leino is another big question mark for the Sabres this year. After signing a 6-year, $27 million contract with Buffalo in 2011, he has not lived up to expectations. Leino injured his hip last season and only managed to play in 8 games where he recorded a total of 6 points. C Steve Ott is another forward to watch this season. However, that should be easy considering his style of play. He can produce offensively as a third line center and agitate opponents. He is a hard worker who is always noticeable on the ice.
Will Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller still be Sabres after this year’s trade deadline? (Getty Images)
Some of the biggest question marks, however, come on the blue line for Buffalo. Christian Ehrhoff was one of Buffalo’s most trusted defensemen last season as he averaged about 25 minutes of ice-time per game. Ehrhoff can play in many different situations and will most likely enter this season on the top pairing with newcomer Jamie McBain. The 25-year-old McBain has some offensive upside and the ability to log a large amount of minutes. He will look to exceed his career high in points with 30 in 2010-11. The Sabres brought back Henrik Tallinder this season for more than one reason. They obviously feel that he can help their defense, but they also believe he can help another defenseman on the team. That defenseman is Tyler Myers, who has struggled the past few seasons after having a tremendous start to his career. Myers won the Calder Trophy after notching 11 goals and 37 assists in 2009-10 and followed up with a nice sophomore season with 37 points in 2010-11. However, his point total has continued to drop ever since and he has not looked like the same defenseman. Injuries have limited him the past two seasons, but he is looking to stay healthy and return to his old form. During his rookie season, he played on the same pairing as Tallinder, which suggests that the Sabres are hoping Myers will play well again in Tallinder’s second stint with Buffalo. Myers will have a $5.5 million cap hit for the next six years and could be one of the major keys to a successful season for the Sabres. The bottom pairing for Buffalo may have 25-year-old Mike Weber and 21-year-old Mark Pysyk, who played 19 games for Buffalo last year in his rookie season.
There are many young and talented players on Buffalo’s roster, but this is still a team in transition. They will need Myers, Miller, Vanek, and some of their young players to step up in order for them to make the playoffs. With teams like Detroit and Boston in the same division, it will be tough for Buffalo to compete for the division title. Although it seems that the Sabres are headed in the right direction, it will most likely take a year or two for them to return to the playoffs.
Thomas Vanek-Cody Hodgson-Tyler Ennis
Marcus Foligno-Mikhail Grigorenko-Drew Stafford
Johan Larsson-Steve Ott-Ville Leino
Brian Flynn-Kevin Porter-Patrick Kaleta
Christian Ehrhoff-Jamie McBain
Henrik Tallinder-Tyler Myers
Mike Weber-Mark Pysyk