The 2013 season has been rough for the Buffalo Sabres, sitting 29th in the entire NHL right now it’s almost written in stone that this season is a wash. Because it’s only a 48 game season fans don’t have to suffer much longer and next season is right around the corner, unfortunately things aren’t about to get any easier for the Sabres with the NHL’s new realignment plans.
To kick off the 2013-2014 NHL season the Sabres will have the pleasure of welcoming Pavel Datsyuk and the Detroit Red Wings to the division as well as Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning and Kris Versteeg and the Florida Panthers. With the Lightning and Red Wings coming to an already stacked division with Montreal, Ottawa, Boston and the rising Maple Leafs things just got a little more tough in the Sabres division.
The new Buffalo Sabres division (which has yet to be named) will consist of- the Toronto Maple Leafs, Boston Bruins, Detroit Red Wings, Tampa Bay Lightning, Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators and the Florida Panthers.
The biggest impact for the Sabres to overcome is the skill of the Detroit Red Wings. Pavel Datsyuk arguably one of the best players in the game will be regularly squaring off against the Sabres. With Datsyuk and the Red Wings comes a skilled Detroit team that always seems to be competitive and rising goaltender Jimmy Howard.
With just the top 3 teams of each division making the playoffs, it’s almost a given unless something miraculous takes place that the Sabres will likely fall short in their division. There next best hope is for one of the “wild card” births that will go to the top 2 teams of each conference who weren’t top 3. In order to have a shot at a wild card birth, play outside the division will be crucial. Games against the Penguins, Flyers, Capitals and Rangers will be virtual must wins for the Sabres to challenge for the wild card which no longer focuses on division but conference, so beating other teams in the conference will give the Sabres a better shot at the wild card spot.
The Sabres will have a lot of decisions to make ahead of next season, with the future of Ryan Miller, Drew Stafford and several other players up in the air and 16 teams playing in the East next season- things just got a little more difficult for the Sabres. If the Sabres plan on making the playoffs the next 2 seasons the future starts now, they need to get the right group ready to compete in a dog eat dog division and Eastern Conference. With the new realignment this is a major off-season for the Terry Pegula and the Sabres and will decide their fate for the next 2 seasons.