We are now just 4 days away from the Buffalo Sabres home opener on Sunday night against the Philadelphia Flyers. Excitement is in the air and fans are flocking to open practices to catch a glimpse of the Sabres squad that will hit the ice on Sunday night. So with the season just days away here are 5 predictions for the 2013 Buffalo Sabres.
5. Will Make the Playoffs
Sure this one may seem generic as every team’s goal is to at least make it into the postseason- but this year I truly believe the Buffalo Sabres will be in the playoffs. With all the young talent the Sabres have at their disposal it would be a travesty to miss the playoffs for a second straight season. Terry Pegula came into Buffalo with one goal in mind- winning the Stanley Cup. While the team may not be ready for that level yet, the additions of Cody Hodgson, Marcus Foligno and Mikhail Grigorenko matched with the strong play of Tyler Ennis, the upside of this team is endless. Sabres will finish 6th or 7th in the Eastern Conference to squeak into the playoffs.
4. Ryan Miller Will Return to Vezina Form
It’s no secret that goaltender Ryan Miller had a rough year in Buffalo. From a slow start to a concussion on a controversial hit- the play of Miller left much to be desired. After the All-Star break last season Miller came out on fire- he played with a chip on his shoulder and like he had something to prove, helping the
Sabres climb all the way from 14th in the East to just 2 points shy of 8th. That something he had to prove last season is that he is still an elite goaltender in the
NHL. There are still questions surrounding his skill level, many saying he only had 1 good season- Miller will be out to prove that he is an elite goaltender in the NHL and with the 2014 Olympics less then a year away will be looking to make an impression.The last time Miller played in less than 50 NHL games was 2005-2006 where he played 48. In his 48 games he won 30 and finished with a .914 save percentage. This year he’ll play in roughly 40 games- if he can repeat his numbers from his last shortened season (where he didn’t start as the number one goalie), he’ll be able to re-solidify his spot amongst the NHL elite and propel the Sabres back into the postseason.
3. Marcus Foligno Will Challenge for Calder
When Marcus Foligno was recalled from the Rochester Americans last season he was on fire. He came up to the NHL and fit in right away with linemates Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford. They were the hottest line in hockey to end off the season and Foligno didn’t look out of place at all- Look for them to start the 2013 season together once again and feed off their chemistry from last season.
Foligno played 14 games with the Sabres and finished with 13 points- nearly a point-per-game rate. He’s proved he’s ready to make the jump to the NHL with his strong play and leadership skills with the Amerks and will look to turn some heads and prove he will be a key player for the Sabres. While he won’t be able to keep up his point-per-game pace all year long, look for him to finish with around 30 points and be one of the key youngsters on the Sabres.
2. Major Trade
Pegula said he wants to build a team that will win the Stanley Cup and he’s already proved he’s not afraid to shake things up and spend money. Now that the old “core” is virtually gone there is optimism surrounding the future of the Sabres. A lot of that stems from Hodgson, Foligno, Ennis, Grigorenko and Girgensons, but with 27 players on the training camp roster and enough defenceman to ice 2 teams the Sabres have all the weapons to pull off a massive trade. With the Anaheim Ducks talking about trading Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, the Sabres make could make a major bid to land one of them at the trade deadline- a deal that would likely propel the Sabres into the playoffs. Look for a big shake up to come from a trade early on to prove the Sabre are serious Cup contenders.
1. Lindy Ruff Will Be Gone at Season’s End
If the Sabres fail to make the playoffs for the second year in a row, look for Ruff to exit stage left. Sure Ruff and GM Darcy Regierare good friends and have
worked together for years, but one would have to think Regier may also be on the hot seat if the Sabres don’t start winning. They have all the talent to make the playoffs and they’re a fairly young squad who wont have a lot of trouble with the shortened season- when you think about it there really isn’t a reason they should miss the playoffs.
After 16 seasons behind the bench of the Sabres and limited success- no Stanley Cups, it’s time for Ruff to put a winning Sabres team on the ice or get out of the way for a new head coach. Pegula wants to win and if Ruff and Regier aren’t getting the job done they’ll be out- first to go will be Ruff.
What are your predictions for the season? Will Miller have another stellar season? Will the Sabres make the playoffs? Will Ruff be gone in the near future?
In a mere 4 days all these questions will become answers and we will see if the 2013 Buffalo Sabres are for real.