The 2017-18 season is upon us, and the Buffalo Sabres are guaranteed . . . not to come in last! We think. Read on!
It’s here, Buffalo Sabres fans!
The 2017-18 NHL regular season is upon us, and dammit, y’all should be excited.
No, we here at Sabre Noise are not crazy enough to pick the Sabres to win Lord Stanley’s Cup this year; as a matter of fact, we’re not even ready to commit to saying the team will make the playoffs, for goodness sakes!
What we do feel confident about is that the Buffalo Sabres will not be as bad a team as they were in 2016-17. On paper, this team has an actual shot at fighting for a playoff spot, and make no mistake: the team finally has a general manager-coach combo that instills confidence in EVERY Sabres fan, young and old.
In order to help you all get even more pumped for the season, here are three reasons to believe that this Sabres team will be the best one we have seen in quite some time.
Jack Eichel Is About To Blow Up (And So Is Kyle Okposo)
Even though we in the media might make more of the Connor McDavid vs Jack Eichel storyline more than we ought to, you have to know that Eichel watched what McDavid did last year with a tinge of envy.
Just as McDavid was undoubtedly motivated by watching Eichel, Artemi Panarin and a slew of fellow rookies take the NHL storm while he was nursing a broken collar bone during the 2015-16 season, Eichel has to be determined to prove he belongs in the same conversation as McDavid as he comes off a season in which he lost 21 games to a high ankle sprain.
As has been written on this site before, it is not like Eichel had a bad 2016-17 season; despite his injury, he still led the Sabres in scoring, and ranked 11th in the league in points per game. Still, Eichel was not happy with how he and his team performed last year, so expect to see him show the world that yes, he is worth $80 million to the Buffalo Sabres.
Meanwhile, Kyle Okposo also lost a chunk of games to injury in his first season with the team. Okposo signed with Buffalo because he felt good about the direction in which the team was moving . . . and that was with general manager Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma in charge. You know Okposo feels even better about where he is now than he did at this point last season, so expect the second-biggest free agent of 2016 to make a big push to get back to the postseason.
Robin Lehner FINALLY Has A Functional Defense In Front Of Him
Say what you will about Lehner (Lord knows we here at Sabre Noise have had plenty to say), but the numbers do not lie: Lehner gave the Sabres playoff-quality goaltending last season. No, he is not perfect, and is in fact quite terrible in the shootout format. Overall, though, Buffalo’s No.1 goaltender gave the team a chance to win night in and night out last season, even with one of the NHL’s worst defenses playing in front of him.
Now that the the Sabres have Phil Housley on the bench, and a revamped blue line, Lehner has an opportunity to really shine. There is no doubt that the 6’4″ Swede is passionate about competing on the ice. If he can maintain his focus and stay consistent, look for Lehner to approach 30 wins this season.
Unleash The Hounds
After suffering through two seasons of watch Bylsma strangle the creativity out of players such as Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Buffalo fans should be drooling over the idea of watching the Sabres unleash players on both sides of the ice in what should be a faster-paced, more up-and-down style of hockey, courtesy of Housley.
Granted, the preseason results were a mixed bag: the Sabres fried 41 shots at Pittsburgh goalie Antti Niemi and scored twice during the final minute to scare the Penguins before finally falling, 5-4 . . . then followed that effort with an uninspired 3-1 loss against the Islanders in which they only managed 21 shots.
Still, the Sabres should be more fun to watch this season even if there are speed bumps along the way. Rome was not built in a day, and the guys who played under Bylsma’s grinding, overly-complicated offensive system are going to need more than a handful of preseason games to adjust. By mid-November, this team should be pushing the tempo and giving everyone their money’s worth.
Have another reason to believe in the Buffalo Sabres this season? We want to hear it, so share below!