The Buffalo Sabres are beginning to shape themselves into a Stanley Cup contender with young players who wear their hearts on their sleeves.
Youngsters Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Myers put the most into every on-ice shift and are beginning to shape the team's identity.
In the future, prospects such as Zach Kassian, Marcus Foligno and Marc-Andre Gragnani will hopefully buy into this new direction for the Sabres.
I believe that the 2011-12 version of the Sabres will finally have enough energetic youth to offset the veteran high-end talent that they have on the top two lines (Thomas Vanek, Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Drew Stafford). This will allow them to have a more balanced club that is on the upswing and ready to contend for years to come.
Nobody can say enough about the steps that have been taken by the Sabres' management to step things up during the offseason.
It may have been considered risky to sign Ville Leino and Christian Ehrhoff for the amount that they paid, but those are quality players, and the Robyn Regehr trade was a move that will prove to be very valuable going into next season.
Fans in Buffalo should be looking forward to a new era in which the Sabres will be amongst the top teams in the East. A tough team that can bang it out with the best of them will not be so easy to face in the early rounds of the playoffs.
Not to mention that nobody wants to face a hungry Ryan Miller.
I figure that a fourth or fifth-place finish is in order for next season's Sabres, which will give their young talent a chance to showcase their stuff after losing a seven-game series in the first round last year to the Philadelphia Flyers.
This year, I believe that the Sabres will be poised to make a run to the Eastern Conference Finals. It seems to me that the Sabres have a style that is better suited for success in the playoffs than either the Rangers or Capitals.
It would be sweet to get revenge on the Flyers, as well.
This is one writer who has high hopes for what the Sabres can do in the playoffs in 2012.