Predictions for the upcoming NHL season are already being posted around the web, and many teams are not done making moves. At this point, are the Sabres good enough to win the division again?
Mike Corcoran, a Tampa Bay radio host, posted his Eastern Conference predictions with Buffalo finishing in fifth place. Corcoran stated this about the Sabres:
"Some will make the claim that a winning team starts from the net out, and the Buffalo Sabres have one of the best in the Eastern Conference in Ryan Miller. He can and will single handily steal games. The Sabres signed Jordan Leopold to help fill the void left by the departures of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman. They also added center Rob Niedermayer to solidify the forward lines. As long as Miller stays healthy, the Sabres are one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference."
Boston was predicted to win the Northeast Division by Corcoran, but Ottawa and Buffalo are not far behind. Ryan Miller had the whole nation on his side after his performance in the Olympics last February. He went on to win the Vezina Trophy after winning 41 games and finishing with a .929 save percentage and a 2.22 goals against.
The Buffalo Sabres defensive core helped to support Miller's numbers. The Sabres were in the top five in goals against, but how will the defense be this year with the loss of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman?
Many will argue that there is no difference. Even though we lost two solid defensemen, the acquisition of Jordan Leopold and the call up of Mike Weber will fill in the gaps on defense.
Not only do the Sabres still need help on the power play, but what about Craig Rivet? His shoulder surgery will cause him to be out for some time and he may not make it back in time for the opener. The Sabres may be without him as well, forcing the Sabres to call someone else up.
Tyler Myers finished with 48 points last season, and will try to improve on that this year. In addition, Myers was one of just three Sabres to play all 82 games last season.
Maybe the Sabres should think about hiring a power play coach, who they used to have. When the Sabres went to the Finals in 1999, its power play ranked first in the league.
Without a power play coach and a power play quarterback, the Sabres defense will likely be a downgrade from last season. It will be difficult to duplicate last year's performance if the team struggles on the defensive end.
If that does happen, is the offense going to be able to save them? No. Buffalo does not have enough fire power on offense to win high scoring games. A few years ago, that would not have been a problem. Even down the road, prospects from the Portland Pirates may be able to solve that problem. There are no players on the team now that can spark the offense with clutch goals.
Buffalo is in need of just a couple of players this offseason, and that is certainly not out of reach considering how much cap space Regier has to spend. At this point in the offseason, are the Sabres able to compete with the rest of the Northeast Division? Where will they finish in the Eastern Conference?