With the Sabres loss and Capitals victory last night Buffalo was mathematically eliminated from making the playoffs this season. After that incredible playoff push in which the Sabres went from last place in the Eastern Conference to playoff contention in the end it was all for naught, as the Sabres still fell just short. However, there are still many positives Sabres fans can hold on to from this season and for seasons to come. Today I’ll be the optimist and look at some things Sabres fans should be excited about.
1. The Emergence of Tyler Ennis as a number one Center: yes, it appears that the Sabres may have finally found their number one center in Tyler Ennis. The development of the chemistry between Ennis, Foligno, and Stafford is a major positive for the Sabres. Does Ennis’s incresed production make Derek Roy much more disposable to the franchise?
2. Ryan Miller Got His Act Together: Early in the season it appeared that Ryan Miller had completely lost his groove. However this playoff run wouldn’t of been possible without Miller playing like a Vezina caliber goaltender. Even though he still gives up the occasional weak goal, Miller appears to be back on track. Just ask Phil Kessel.
3. The Future is bright: This season more than most has shown fans that they have some great young players in the fold. The first player that comes to mind is the previously mentioned Marcus Foligno, who has scored 13 points in 14 games for Buffalo. His physical style of play and willingness to drop the gloves has made many forget all about the legend of Zack Kassian a bit earlier than they had expected. Luke Adam may have slowed down as the season went along, but early on he had great chemistry with Vanek and Pominville. Maybe a little time in Rochester will help his game grow. Corey Tropp ended up playing 34 games for the Sabres this season, scoring 3 goals and 5 assists. Although his totals aren’t remarkable, there weren’t many times where he appeared to be out of place on the team. You also can look at the young defenseman that have been called up, especially Brayden McNabb and T.J. Brennan. McNabb played 24 games with the big club this season, establishing himself as a hard hitting solid defenseman. Brennan only played 10 games, but showed that down the line he may be a dependable member of the blue line.
4. Darcy, did you rob them blind?: The further away we get from the Sabres trade deadline moves, the better they look. In 19 games with the Sabres Cody Hodgson scored 3 goals and 5 assists. Once he adjusted he looked great and should be an important member of the Sabres for years to come. At first Sulzer appeared to just be a throw in. However he has scored 3 goals and 5 assists in 15 games for the Sabres. He has played excellent, especially when paired with Ehrhoff. He is a UFA at the end of this season, but at this point most fans would assume he’ll be resigned. Zack Kassian has scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 17 games with Vancouver. The goal and one of the assists came in the game against the Sabres. Gragnani has a goal and two assists as well and has a -4 +/-. People in Vancouver are not very happy with his play either.
5. Sign me up!: Christian Ehrhoff and Robyn Regehr are looking like good additions from last off-season. If you compare the Sabres records with/without Ehrhoff you realize how important he is to this team. He totaled 5 goals and 27 assists in 66 games this season. Good news Sabres fans! We have another 9 years of Ehrhoff. Regehr may not be as flashy, but he’s had his fair share of big hits and solid defensive plays this season. Even Leino showed some real positive signs at the end of the season. He may need to work on finishing, but Leino made some really nice plays once he adjusted to the new system.
I know there is one game left, but mentally I’m in off-season mode. This is where Darcy likes to make his team. Even though the season is coming to a close, coverage on Sabrenoise isn’t. Keep checking back for the latest in news around the NHL as well as my Draft Profiles series. Every day we now inch closer to my favorite day of the year, the first day of free agency. The Sabres season really never ends.
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