It is game day for the Buffalo Sabres, and you can say the same for the two Atlantic Division teams we’re talking about in Part III.
The Buffalo Sabres have one division rival who took the complete opposite direction in building their respective team in the Detroit Red Wings. The Wings, led by general manager Steve Yzerman, love making splashes with trades and free agency, something that could let a team win immediately, but not without running the risk of shortening the window for success.
We also have the Florida Panthers, a group seeking to successfully defend its Eastern Conference title. They will be without a pair of star blueliners early, but they have plenty of firepower to hold the fort down. Keep reading to gain an in-depth look at the Panthers before we shift gears and talk more about Steve Yzerman’s Red Wings.
What to know about the Buffalo Sabres rivals: Part III
The Panthers will be hurting for a portion of the year, as neither Brandon Montour nor Aaron Ekblad will be ready to go for a while. The latter is on “long-term injured reserve,” so the Panthers will count on Gustav Forsling and Company to hold things down on the blue line with goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky providing the last line of defense.
Fortunately for the Panthers, they are loaded at forward, and it starts with Aleksander Barkov and Matthew Tkachuk. Tkachuk showed us last season that he’s not the product of an elite line, as you may have figured during his days in Calgary with Johnny Gaudreau.
Then there is the supporting cast, led by Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart. But it also includes Anton Lundell, Evan Rodrigues, Sam Bennett, and Eetu Luostarinen. Overall, their projected top-nine looks epic, but then again, can they offer enough defense to keep the score reasonable until Montour and Ekblad return?
Detroit Red Wings
We’re once more looking at the “Yzerplan” with Alex DeBrincat being the most prominent addition in 2023. But the question is: Can he be a game-changer? It wasn’t necessarily the case in Ottawa last season, so until he proves otherwise, there’s little need for Buffalo Sabres fans to be overtly concerned about him when they face Detroit.
This year, Steve Yzerman’s been pulling out all the stops, as he also added the likes of J.T. Compher, who is one of the league’s better defensive forwards. But Compher isn’t a top-tier scoring talent, and neither is Dylan Larkin. Larkin led the team in scoring last season, but his 79 points in 80 contests isn’t something that entirely jumps off the stat sheet.
David Perron was their second-best scoring option last season, and that shouldn’t be the case this year with DeBrincat aboard. On the blue line, the Wings have some solid options in Moritz Seider and Jake Walman, with Shayne Gostisbehere, Jeff Petry, and Ben Chiarot providing ample experience.
Overall, the Red Wings look like they have what it takes to make a run on paper, as has been the case since last season. But until this team can fully mesh, it’s tough to see them finishing any higher than sixth in the Atlantic this season, if not worse.
Source: NHL season previews 2023-24: Counting down the teams from worst to first by Shayna Goldman, Sean Gentille, and Dom Luszczyszyn
(Statistics provided by Hockey-Reference)