September 4, 2013 by andymisek
The NHL 2013-2014 season will be the first in 16 years where the Buffalo Sabres will go into training camp without ex-head coach Lindy Ruff. Ron Rolston will be starting his first full season as the Sabres head coach. The Sabres are in rebuild mode this year. Both Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller are in trade rumors after already moving Jason Pominville, Jordan Leopold and Robyn Regehr at the last trade deadline. Buffalo has restocked the prospect pipeline over the last few seasons, but most of them still need development. We see the Buffalo Sabers finishing the 2013-2014 campaign in 27th place despite the new, youthful core.
Buffalo continues to build through the draft. After taking Joel Armia (1st round, 16th overall) in 2011, Mikhail Grigorenko (1st round 12th overall), Zemgus Girgensons (1st round, 14th overall) and Jake McCabe (2nd round 44th overall) in 2012, The Sabres picked up 5 additional prospects in the top 60 picks of a deep 2013 draft. Rasmus Ristolainen (1st round, 8th overall) and Nikita Zadorov (1st round 16th overall) could start to see ice time in the 2014-2015 season, possibly earlier for Ristolainen. The Sabres also acquired Johan Larsson and Matt Hackett from Minnesota in the Jason Pomenville trade.
The Sabres used one of their compliance buyouts on Nathan Gerbe.
It appears the Buffalo Sabres will be running a very young 1-2 punch down the middle with Cody Hodgson and Mikhail Grigorenko. Both still need to mature before Buffalo can expect them to lead the Sabres back into the playoffs. Playing with veterans Thomas Vanek and Drew Stafford will help.
Steve Ott, Marcus Foligno and Patrick Kaleta will bring the sand paper (and a decent amount of skill) to the line-up, but the depth of the Sabres is pretty ugly. Luke Adam could make a run after spending most of last season with Buffalo’s AHL affiliate, Rochester Americans. There is nothing too exciting up front for the Sabres.
Don’t forget that Ville Leino and his obnoxiously bad contract are still in Buffalo. He needs to start living up to that contract or he should be bought out next season.
The Sabres are looking for Tyler Myers to have a bounce back season. The young defenseman needs to step his game up if he expects to stay in Buffalo long term, especially after drafting Ristolainen and Zadorov. The big guy needs to recapture his 2010-2011 performance, which was also the last time Buffalo made the playoffs.
The Sabres added a couple new faces to their defensive group this season by getting Jamie McBain from Carolina and Henrik Tallinder from New Jersey. Neither of these guys are big game changers but McBain is still pretty young and could develop into a solid defenseman. Adding McBain and Tallinder to the fold assures Ristolainen and Zadorov will spend another year developing (barring a strong training camp). Buffalo also has Christain Ehrhoff who should lead the group in ice time and power play time.
How the mighty have fallen. Ever since Lucic ran over Ryan Miller a couple years ago, he hasn’t been the same. There have been trade rumors for over a year now that Miller could be on his way out of Buffalo. Acquiring Hackett from Minnesota further fueled the rumors. Until he is moved, Miller will be the main guy in net for Buffalo.
Jhonas Enroth, who was supposed to be the future goaltender for Buffalo, now has some competition for back up in Hackett. Both are very young but Enroth has more experience. While most would place their bets on Enroth winning the back-up job to start the season, Hackett could steal his spot if Enroth falters.
Much like Florida, the future is very bright for the Buffalo Sabres. However, this season could get pretty ugly, especially if Vanek or Miller are traded. Many young, inexperienced players will be in the line-up and the depth leaves much to be desired. Don’t expect the Sabres to be playing come late April.