Apr 1, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils defenseman Henrik Tallinder (7) skates with the puck while being chased by New York Islanders right wing Kyle Okposo (21) during the third period at the Prudential Center. The Islanders defeated the Devils 3-1. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

Off-Season Off To A Solid Start

What has the draft and free agency taught us about the Sabres mentality on the upcoming season? The answer, in short, is that the team has set a strong emphasis on the blue line.

Overall, I give the draft a strong B to a B+. Drafting players such as Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadarov prove one thing; the Sabres are designing a defense that may prove to be lethal in the long run. Whether or not the blue line strengthens a ton in the upcoming months leading to October, there is some interesting talent about to join the team.

Jun 30, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Rasmus Ristolainen poses for a photo after being introduced as the number eight overall pick to the Buffalo Sabres during the 2013 NHL Draft at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

With picks at 8th and 16th, I was almost certain that should Valeri Nichushkin fall into Buffalos lap, they would almost definitely take him.

The Oilers chose Darnell Nurse, within seconds my heart pounded and my Twitter exploded with “Nichushkin  Nichushkin  Nichushkin #pleasepleasepleasepleaseplaseLord” but when Kevin Devine went to the microphone, gave a shout out to the fans (me included) at First Niagara Center, and announced that the team had chosen to go with Ristolainen, I admit that I even questioned the decision that I had just heard.

But when I actually had time to read and process, I couldn’t be happier with the route they chose to go.

Thinking about that, the position we needed and still need to build is the defense. With two picks in the first round, I was glad to see that they used their two top picks to grab some defense. With Tyler Myers a wild card when it comes to consistency, it’ll be a mystery what these two could do until the opening of camp.

Do the Sabres decide to thrust the two, or maybe even just one, right into the NHL, or do they prepare them down in the AHL, and bring them on later in the season and use them in a needed situation?

My opinion, I think the ability to develop into an NHL-caliber player depends more on the natural ability of the player than trying to work in the AHL. However both players may not possess that talent and may need some work inside the Americans organization, but still get a taste of the NHL at stretches inside the season also.

Later rounds saw the Sabres take players on the offensive side, but overall I strongly like the defensive set we took.

Since July 5th, the Sabres have made little moves here and there.

Danny Briere’s rumored return was soon put to rest as the former Sabre signed with his hometown Montreal Canadiens, extinguishing my hope to bring in a known veteran leader to help grow our future prospects for the long rebuild that is like I’ve said is more of a reloading.

The Sabres have taken huge steps in returning strong defense in signing Mike Weber and Alexander Sulzer to contract extensions.

To add to the mix, the New Jersey Devils roster dump has led the Blue and Gold to bring back former blue-liner Hank Tallinder.

The kicker, we gave up a player who has spent his career in the minor leagues. Not even an NHLer.

Thinking about this now, bringing back Hank could potentially kick start the slowly declining defensive effort that is Tyler Myers. Myers, who will be entering his 4th season in the NHL, but has seen less and less time due to inconsistency along the blue line. Let us hope that by bringing back some familiarity, that he can start to return to his former stature.

Myers has the ability, talent, and the strength to grow as an elite d-man, but he just needs to gain some confidence to hope to start going positive.

So far it has been 6 days, and while some big names remain on the market, the Sabres are having a pretty decent offseason. While they haven’t made a huge deal yet, I give the Sabres a solid B+ so far this season.

My suggestion, add some veteran offense on the left side, maybe a decent second-line center, and I believe we will definitely crack into the playoffs.

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