Northeast Preview: Buffalo Sabres

Here we go, 3 days left until the Bruins drop the puck and we're headed into the meat of the Northeast Division. The Buffalo Sabres, one of DOY's most bitter rivals. The rivalry between the Bruins and the Sabres have been well documented over the past few season, culminating in Milan Lucic absolutely running the fuck over Ryan Miller. Miller then calls Lucic a piece of shit, Brendan Shanahan sits on his hands, Lindy cries that it's open season on goalies, Lucic beats the shit out of Patrick Kaleta and the Sabres eventually miss the playoffs completely. 

lucic GOOJF

So it's well documented that the Sabres (who many believed would win the Northeast Division) underachieved last season. 

Top Five Scorers:

Player Games Played Goals Assists Points
Jason Pomenville 82 30 43 73
Thomas Vanek 78 26 35 61
Drew Stafford 80 20 30 50
Derek Roy 80 17 27 44
Cody Hodgson 83 (yes, 83) 19 22 41

Last year Buffalo was 17th in goals per game with 2.57. Their offense was average. Their defense was average. Their goaltending was above average, but not great. Basically, what you're looking at is a good team who underachieved. There's nothing more to say about it. 

Goaltending:

Player Games Played Wins Losses Overtime Losses GAA SV% Shutout
Ryan Miller 62 31 21 7 2.55 .916 6
Jhonas Enroth 26 8 11 4 2.70 .917 1

Everyone loves to shit all over Ryan Miller because he's a "crybaby", but when you look at the numbers, both Miller and Enroth had good seasons. Miller was 43rd among goalies in GAA (and take into account, NHL.com counts people who have played at least 1 game) and 33rd in SV%. Enroth? 55th in GAA and 34th in SV%. That's not bad at all. 

After the jump the 2013 Buffalo Sabres...

Transactions:

 

Jochen Hecht 1/13/2013 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Tyler Ennis 9/15/2012 Buf   Re-Signed (Two-year contract)
Andrei Makarov 9/14/2012 Buf   Signed (Three-year contract)
Alex Biega 8/2/2012 Buf   Re-Signed (One-year contract)
Patrick Kaleta 7/31/2012 Buf   Re-Signed (Three-year contract)
Drew Schiestel 7/26/2012 Buf   Re-Signed (One-year contract)
Mikhail Grigorenko 7/18/2012 Buf   Signed (Three-year contract)
Nick Tarnasky 7/17/2012 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
T.J. Brennan 7/17/2012 Buf   Re-Signed (One-year contract)
Zemgus Girgensons 7/13/2012 Buf   Signed (Three-year contract)
Kevin Porter 7/6/2012 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
David Leggio 7/6/2012 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Mark Mancari 7/6/2012 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Adam Pardy 7/2/2012 Buf   Traded (with Steve Ott for Derek Roy)
Steve Ott 7/2/2012 Buf   Traded (with Adam Pardy for Derek Roy)
John Scott 7/1/2012 Buf   Signed as Free Agent (One-year contract)
Joel Armia 6/16/2012 Buf   Signed (Three-year contract)

Offense

Buffalo's plan this offseason was to get tougher, or so it seems. The Sabres shipped out their 4th leading scorer in Derek Roy for Steve Ott, who put up worse numbers than Roy did last season (74GP, 11G, 28A, 39P) but was also on a team ranked 22nd in goals scored per game. Along with Ott came defenseman Adam Pardy. 

Now, Jason Pomenville had a disgusting season last year. Pomenville's 73 points were the second highest of his career and it was the second time he broke the 30 goal marker since he's been in the NHL. The Buffalo captain did it all for them last year. He was complimented nicely by Thomas Vanek, who also had a pretty good year, but was not a Vanek-esque season. In fact, Vanek's 26 goals were his lowest total since his rookie season, so one would think that he would bounce back from that. 

The real question lies with Cody Hodgson (who I like, a lot) and Ville Leino. Hodgson came from Vancouver in a trade at the deadline and this kid seemingly has it all. He's still young but he ahs the tools to develop into a real scoring threat for the Sabres. I think this season he will blossom more into what everyone in Vancouver thought he was and then hit his potential in 2014-2015. 

The real, real question mark is Ville Leino, who Buffalo threw tons of money at. Leino is going to make $4.5M for the next 5 seasons (unless the Sabres amnesty him, which is a possibility) and his career isn't what Buffalo must have thought it was. Leino has only scored 10+ goals once and that during his lame duck year for the Flyers. Last season he was a complete disaster, scoring 8 goals in 71 games. Could Leino have a bounceback year? I guess, but I don't see it happening. 

However, Buffalo has nice complimentary pieces like Tyler Ennis, Drew Stafford (who is a Bruins killer) and Nathan Gerbe (though you wouldn't know it based on his 2011-2012 season). I think this year their offense will start clicking, which could make the Northeast disasterous. 

leopold

Defense:

On paper, the Buffalo defense looks pretty good. Tyler Myers looks like a baby Chara, Robyn Regehr/Jordan Leopold/Christian Erhoff can provide experienced veteran leadership for the young kids and if Myers does take that "next step" this D core will be really good. The problem is Myers regressed after a stellar rookie season and the roster wasn't able to recover from it. Everything is going to revolve around this kid defensively. 

If the Sabres lack anything, its an "offensive defenseman" who can help them move the puck. While Leopold is good at it, they don't have the expertise you would look for (although the Bruins didn't either). The real question is who fills out the 3rd pairing. Adam Pardy could make a run for it, but right now I have no idea. 

When you look at the first two pairings though, they could be the best top 4 in the Northeast if they're playing to their potential. 

Miller

Goaltending:

"Ryan Miller is a bitch". "Ryan Miller is a pussy." "Ryan Miller is a crybaby."

 

Player Games Played Wins Losses Overtime Losses GAA SV% Shutout
Ryan Miller 62 31 21 7 2.55 .916 6
Jhonas Enroth 26 8 11 4 2.70 .917 1

I hate to break it to you, Ryan Miller is really good. Last year was a down year for Miller and he still played pretty well. There are a lot of teams who would kill for Miller (which is why there are rumbling of him being traded?) because he's been consistent in his career and he's a Vezina Trophy winner. I know it's not going to be a real popular opinion around these parts, but I think a shortened season will really benefit Miller. 

Jhonas Enroth isn't a sloutch either. In fact, it can be argued that Buffalo has the best goalie tandem in the Northeast Division now that Tim Thomas is eating fried chicken in some elongated plastic tube. Go down the list: 

Toronto: LOL they don't even have a starting goalie
Ottawa: Lehner or Bishop not on Enroth's level
Boston: Khudobin isn't proven
Montreal: Budaj? Ehhh

Enroth has the ability to start in other markets. He is the East Coast version of Jonathan Bernier, essentially. 

If the Sabres can use these two guys effectively and keep both healthy/rested during a long stretch of games, they will be a dangerous team. 

Prediction: 1st in the Northeast Division, 3rd in the Eastern Conference

 

 

 

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