The Buffalo Sabres may be in fact one of the most interesting teams come this season. Not for the fact that we have an Olympic-hero goaltender, or a rookie that’s as tall as Paul Bunyan yet as graceful as a ballet dancer. The Sabres may be the team to watch because they could end up anywhere in the Eastern Conference and go as deep as anyone can predict in the Playoffs. They could make a run going all the way, or simply not make it again. So we ask ourselves, what is in store this year?
The Sabres lost two veteran defence man, and tried to fill the void with two other veteran defence man. Leopold should add some offense, and Morrison is a good addition especially with Weber on the cusp of making the team. The first month Weber should hopefully be playing with Rivet out of the lineup after his injury, so we will see how good the kid can really be. Kennedy was also lost to free up some room on the wings for emerging rookies Tyler Ennis and Nathan Gerbe. Other than that, it is basically the same team that skated off the ice in Boston after game 6. Same coach, same goaltender, same team with half a lineup full of disappointments.
Without anymore unforeseen injuries, trades or sophomore slumps, we can predict that the Sabres will most likely come out with a decent run during the season. Battling for the Northeast division will happen all year, but this year fans won’t be as easily drawn into the frenzy. Miller will likely be voted as an All-Star if not only for his Olympic Performance making him a household name in the United States and Canada. But ultimately what matters is the playoffs.
Where do I say that the Sabres end up this year? Being a hardcore fan tells me to say contender. Being realistic tells me to expect more disappointment. Players that are meant to stand out have to do so. Vanek tried pulling the load last year in games 1-3 and he might have been able to had he not been injured. But the fact is that without another goal scorer they are a one dimensional threat and will easily be taken care of. Will Ennis or Gerbe bring that scoring?
What was missing in last year’s playoffs can be summed up in one word: Heart. The big name players like Connolly, Roy, Pomminville, and Gaustad would simply disappear during games. Going through the motions and not scoring to their potentials. The heart was given by players like McCormick, Ennis, Vanek (for his 2 1/3 game duration), Grier, Kaleta, and even Ellis. Those are the players that I say will bring us through the Playoffs and make us legit contenders again. If that type of heart and passion can rub off on a Connolly or a Roy who knows what can happen.
In the end, the Sabres will be interesting to watch, especially come playoff time. Which team will we see? Will we see the Connolly circa 2006 with the glint in his eye and fire in his heart? Or will we see a team of Afinogenovs and Satans (Yeah, I went there). My prediction? 5th in the conference and a deep run. I also predict a trade on the winds. Hopefully Weber and Stafford for a playmaker. Plus I say look out for Enroth. This is Zac Schalberg with his first and hopefully not last outlook on the Buffalo Sabres.