It doesn’t seem like that long ago that we were writing a eulogy for the 2010-2011 Buffalo Sabres, and here we are writing the preview for the next year. How much has changed? Everything. It started with a culture change, and now from the locker room out, the Buffalo Sabres enter next year as the first full season with a truly committed ownership group that is determined to not only bring a championship to the city of Buffalo, but to create a hockey nirvana in the Nickel City.
change shock was felt immediately when Terry Pegula took over the team last February. The Buffalo Sabres were already surging up the standings after a sub
par first half of the year. Remember the smiles on the faces of the Sabres Alumni on Fan Appreciation night when there was more Blue and Gold heart in the downtown
Buffalo area since the last game at the Aud? Can you imagine the look on the faces of Rene Robert, Gil Perreault, Jim Lorentz, Danny Gare, and the like if the Buffalo Sabres
were able to have a early summer party with Lord Stanley? Thats what the goal is here, and it has started from the inside bowels of the arena, to the once ice product.
There is not going to be much of the same feeling in Buffalo when it comes to the newly renamed First Niagara Center, other than a fan base eager to lift this city to their first
ever championship. 2010-2011 Season Record: 43-29-10 (7th Place). Season End Result: First Round Playoff Loss to Philadelphia Flyers (seven games).
Not much is going to change in the net this year. Ryan Miller is still the stalwart and go to guy for Lindy, but instead of having an incapable backup, he’s got a guy that is
hungry to get into the league full time, and to take the reigns for himself. He probably wont get that start in Buffalo, but Jhonas Enroth still has a lot to prove in this
league. I think he is going to showcase that tenacity every chance he gets. Ryan Miller did not have a repeat season after winning the Vezina. Given the new energy around the team, I would anticipate seeing the more zen focused Ryan Miller back in the saddle.
In past seasons when you are talking about the Buffalo Sabres, you got a lot of, oh boy, how are they going to replace that guy? It has seemed that since the lockout there has been nothing but a parade of talent out of this town when it came to free agency. No one wanted to stay here, because the owner was not willing to pay. He probably overpaid on the blue line this year, but bringing in Erhoff and Regier has filled the void on defense where Tallinder and Lydman once stood, hell they probably are an upgrade over the former Buffalo Sabres number one shutdown pair. Two seasoned veterans who have played for the right to lift the Stanley Cup in their careers. Two guys that know what sacrifices it takes. At that to the talented young defensive corps that we have have, and the Buffalo Sabres are going to be a threat in any close game.
The Buffalo Sabres front end still leaves something to be desired for. Your top two centers are Derek Roy, and Ville Leino. No where on this roster do we have a replacement for Chris Drury or Danny Briere. This team was damn lucky to have those two guys here when they did, having that much talent on one roster now a days is probably never going to happen again. At this point, do they need to have someone of that caliber on this team? You have shed Tim Connolly, but have brought back Alex Kotalik. The Sabres just might have enough depth however, that on any given night can roll four lines at you that can put the puck in the net, an attribute that provided them with great success out of the lock out. Heavy on the wings, the Sabres are going to have to do some line/position shuffling to solidify up front.
The Buffalo Sabres proved on thing this off season, and that is they have a new owner that is willing to spend money on winning hockey organizations. He donated $88 million dollars to develop a Division 1 hockey program at his alma mater. He bought the Buffalo Sabres. He bought the Rochester Americans. He has redesigned First Niagara Center. He listens to the fans. He brought back the history of the team and the game in this city by renergizing a stale alumni association.
If the Buffalo Sabres don’t rival for the Northeast Division banner this year based on the talent they put on their roster, the pure hockey energy that is buzzing in this city right now just might be enough momentum to carry this team until we are the team that prize free agents give the first call too.
Training camp is right around the corner, and there are plenty of guys who have proven themselves in the NHL, and plenty of guys who have proven they are NHL ready. Its not going to be an easy chore for the Buffalo Sabres in the coming weeks, but as the signs have pointed out, IN TERRY WE TRUST.
Given that they have put themselves into position to be over the salary cap right now, I would expect the Buffalo Sabres to try and move some pieces through a trade, and possibly include a salary dump in that move, a la Calgary and Kotalik. I could see a move coming that includes the likes of Brad Boyes and Paul Gaustad. It’s exciting times here in Hockey Heaven. Feel free to jump on board. There is always a seat right here for a new fan of Blue and Gold.
Tags: Alex Kotalik Alumni Brad Boyes Buffalo Sabres Chris Drury Danny Briere Danny Gare Division 1 Gil Perrault Jim Lorentz Rochester Americans Ryan Miller Jhonas Enroth September Terry Pegula Trades Training Camp