After another disappointing season in which the Buffalo Sabres failed to make the playoffs and a rebuild on the horizon times are changing in Buffalo. In large this season is going to be a testing period of sorts for many veteran Sabres’ players. Which players will pass the test and which ones will be shipped out is still to be determined, but here are 5 players who will want to bring their A-game next season.
First things first, Hodgson and the Sabres still need to agree on a new contract that will make both sides happy. Whether Hodgson signs a long-term deal for big money or takes a shorter deal with less money, he’s going to have a lot to prove on the ice. If he demands big money he’ll have to prove that he’s worth the big contract he was rewarded or make the Sabres regret putting pen to paper. If he goes with the shorter contract, the minute he steps on the ice he’s playing for a longer more expensive contract and he’ll want to showcase his skills to other teams.
Next season will be a significant one for Hodgson’s career, he’ll want to hit the ice flying in October to help erase any doubts from his office issues in Vancouver and to prove he can be the Sabres number one centre.
It’s appearing more and more that Ryan Miller‘s days in Buffalo are numbered. While Darcy Regier didn’t deal the franchise goaltender in the offseason, expecting him to be around past the trade deadline is unlikely. Miller is entering the last year of his deal and has made it fairly clear that he isn’t going to be re-signing in Buffalo, and with Enroth ready to lay claim to the crease it’s time for Miller to move on.
Despite his numbers the last two seasons, Miller is still one of the top goaltenders in the league and it’s time for him to show everyone that again. With the Olympics right around the corner and wanting to get out of Buffalo, Miller will want to start the year off on fire to show everyone he’s worth the gamble.
Enroth’s game has really come into form recently. Once Ron Rolston rolled into Buffalo and gave Enroth some playing time he showed
that he has the potential to be a solid starting goaltender in the NHL. Will Enroth fill the hole that Miller leaves? Likely not, but he’ll do enough to keep the Sabres in the mix and that’s all you can ask.
This season, perhaps more than ever before, Enroth is going to get his fair share at the crease. With Miller likely leaving town and Enroth wanting to prove he can hold down the fort, we’ll see a lot more of the Swedish netminder between the pipes. While Miller is still in town and the crease is still his, Enroth is soon to be taking over. Enroth will need a strong start to the season so that the Sabres will feel comfortable losing Ryan Miller and putting their faith in Enroth.
Ah Tyler Myers, the Sabres former Calder Trophy winner who has turned into a pylon. It’s fair to say that Myers is not the same defenceman he was when he burst into the league and he’s no longer playing his type of defence. Myers put up just 8 points last season and has lost his reputation of being the top defenceman on the Sabres blue line.
There’s still plenty of time for Myers game to get back on track. Hopefully former defencive partner Henrik Tallinder and Myers will be able to spark chemistry and help Myers break out of his sophomore slump. If Myers doesn’t snap out of his funk soon, it may be time for the Sabres to buy him out or unload him on another team, but would anyone want a gentle giant who can’t produce?
The old saying, if you can’t beat them, join them is something the Sabres took a little to literally when they acquired Leino. Leino played a large role in helping eliminate the Sabres from the post season in 2010, so the Sabres decided to put him in blue and gold. Only problem is they forgot his success was in large part due to his chemistry with linemates and that he doesn’t want to play centre. Due to injury Leino played in just 8 games last season, but looked good in those 8 games and showed fans what could be possible if he finds his game again.
If Leino can stay healthy this could finally be the year he shows everyone why he was acquired. With the emergence of Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko, Leino will be able to play on the wing where he’s most comfortable. So far Leino has been a major disappointment for the Sabres, it’s time for Leino to earn his money.
If these 5 players can step their game up next season a projected disappointing season could turn into a playoff run for the blue and gold.