The draft is over and the bulk of the free agent signings for the Buffalo Sabres are most likely concluded. The draft saw the Sabres acquire top prospect Samson Reinhart; a smooth player with great hockey sense and playmaking skills (and it personally makes me happy to have a player of such a caliber.) The first couple days of free agency have seen GM Tim Murray pick up Brian Gionta (a longtime favorite player of mine), Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick, Andrej Meszaros, and then a trade for Josh Gorges. These additions as well as the returning players will be the key points to my prediction for next season.
Buffalo Sabres Free Agent Forwards
Gionta is a 35 year old former captain and veteran scorer (career high 48 goals in one season) and he will provide the leadership and extra push that the young’s kids will need going forward. Matt Moulson has proven once again that he can score goals by putting up 20+ this season. His scoring touch will be an important asset to have up on the Buffalo Sabres top line. Giving him a chance to succeed will only be beneficial to the scoring problem encountered last year. McCormick will round out the gritty side of the team by most likely Centering the 4th line, and his work ethic will rub off on anyone he plays with (keep in mind that Grigorenko scored 2 goals in one game and he was on a line with McCormick.) These players will not completely solve the scoring issue, but they will certainly help.
Buffalo Sabres Free Agent Defensemen
Another partially overlooked problem from last season was the lacking of defensive coverage and allowing a large number of shots every game (which wears on goalies) Adding two top 4 veteran defensemen in Josh Gorges and Andrej Meszaros will help to decrease this shot totals and teach the young defensemen such as Ristolainen, Zadorov, and McCabe. Gorges is said to be a “Heart and soul kind of guy” by his former captain Brian Gionta and that will be a quality that is valued by a Sabres team in need of some fire and inspiration.
Returning Players To Watch
The player that most Buffalo Sabres fans can’t wait to watch next season is none other than number 28, Zemgus Girgensons. This kid won the hearts of Buffalo Sabres fans with his work ethic and his fire on the ice that never goes out. He plays hard to the end of every play and doesn’t give up easily. Hopefully his dedication will pay off in the form of more wins.
Tyler Ennis broke out this season by breaking the 20 goal mark for the second time in his career, and he did so on a Sabres club that only saw Cody Hodgson score 20 goals as well. The next closest was Drew Stafford with 16 goals. Look for Ennis to have a larger role on this team next year and look for him to break that 20 goal mark again. He’s shown he can do it, and last year showed that he has gain the confidence to become a leader on this team.
I predict that the Buffalo Sabres will finish out of a playoff spot this year again, however, I do not think they will be as far out as they were last year. The kids and the veterans all have something to prove. Last season started with Darcy Regier behind the reigns and Ron Rolston behind the bench. It made for an uninspired team with little to no drive to win or even play most nights. This is Tim Murray and Ted Nolan‘s team now. These players have what it takes to be competitive and that is what Murray said he wanted (interview with Buffalo media at First Niagara Center). Look for a much more competitive and driven team this year.