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Apr 22, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres defenseman Mark Pysyk (53) during the game against the Winnipeg Jets at the First Niagara Center. The Jets beat the Sabres 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Why Does This Preseason Matter?

Everyone always talks about their team:

“Oh my team has this, this, and that player. We have no issue with scoring.”

Sep 19, 2013; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres goalie Ryan Miller (30) and defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen (55) defend the net as Carolina Hurricanes center Nathan Gerbe (14) puts pressure on during the first periodat First Niagara Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

But, with preseason, and if a team suffers a loss, they follow that with, “Oh it’s just preseason, it doesn’t matter.”

But in some cases, it does matter. Some teams will have a set roster, with two or three new additions to compensate for losses in the offseason. But for Buffalo, each and every game matters. While the preseason says absolutely nothing for how a team will do in the regular season, it does tell us who is ready to be a part of the NHL.

Every game in preseason matters. Win or lose, it does matter. For coaches, it is a chance for the organization to look at all of their prospects, see who is ready, and who needs more time to develop. From draft day to the regular season, preseason is everything.

The Buffalo Sabres, who currently sit with a 3-0-0 record, are a perfect example of this. Along with the three wins against Montreal, Columbus, and Carolina, the coaching staff has their work cut out for them. Rookies are producing, kids who have been in the Americans system are producing, and the veterans are giving it all to earn their spot.

The team underwent a drastic overhaul, and like I said, it wasn’t a rebuild, it was, in fact, a reload.

The team has a deep pool of prospects, each with strengths and weaknesses that contribute to a hard job for Ron Rolston and company. Those prospects are the ones fighting for their chance at the big leagues, or at least make an impression to get a call during the season should the Sabres need it, and if history repeats itself, they’ll need it.


Sep 17, 2013; Columbus, OH, USA; Buffalo Sabres forward Joel Armia (33) stick handles as Columbus Blue Jackets center Derek MacKenzie (24) chases during the first period at Nationwide Arena. Mandatory Credit: Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

Joel Armia is the perfect example of the development the Sabres want with each draftee. His size, visibility and shooting ability are the prime aspects that the Sabres should be and are drooling over. When he was selected 16th overall in the 2011 draft, that was the Sabres prepping themselves. Two years later, it’s his time. At 20 years old, the Finnish right winger may finally make his jump from Finland to North America, and the Sabres will be ready to unleash him and reap the benefits.

Rarely do we, as Buffalo fans, see a player get drafted and immediately play for the club. Last year we saw Mikhail Grigorenko do just that. But that decision seemed not to play out to the Sabres liking and after 22 games, Grigorenko was sent back to the QMJHL’s Quebec Remparts.

Now, I believe there is a whole new tune to the story. With the signing of Joe Sacco adding a huge developmental coach to the young mindset of Rolston, I believe Grigo is going to earn his keep with the Sabres. While he hasn’t shown much for the start of camp and preseason, it’ll be a matter of time before we see just why he was the first pick last year.

Another big portion of the preseason would be wading through the deep pool of defense that the Sabres have accumulated. OF course, at the draft, Buffalo drafted heavily to contribute to the defense which plagued them all of last season. With both Ristolainen and Zadorov (who saw the most ice time last night) growing with the team, those two have a hefty task ahead of them, preparing for 82 games of hard-fighting hockey.

But for one player, this preseason means a ton more.

Mark Pysyk is the most ready out of all of the defensemen that we have in the AHL system. He has proven that he is ready to take the

bigger role and I think a pairing of him and Mike Weber would be the match-made in heaven, Weber has the aggressiveness and Pysyk has the skill to match. While he was paired with Tallinder for Carolina, I believe soon enough he will find his stride and make the defense a brick wall come October 2nd.

All of the organization has said that the final line-up will be fought during this preseason, the ones who earn it will get the playing time they deserve. The Buffalo Sabres have the talent necessary to be a lethal combination of youth, experience, determination, and will, and with four games remaining, it’ll be a hunger games-type battle for the final. For a team to have this much potential and have to turn away guys who may be the face of the franchise in the upcoming years, what’s not to be excited for?

Obviously there are others that I am excited about, but what are yours? Comment below and let me hear that noise! Sabrenoise that is!

Don’t forget to ask me some questions on twitter! @seanmcgrath44


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