The Buffalo Sabres need to continue developing their talented young players and build a winning roster through their stockpile of draft picks.
After finishing with the NHL’s worst record last season, the Sabres selected center Sam Reinhart with the second overall pick in the 2014 draft. Buffalo is expected to be among the league’s worst teams again in 2014-15, which wouldn’t be a bad outcome given the incredible talent of the 2015 draft class. Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel, the consensus top two prospects in the 2015 class, are potential franchise cornerstone players.
Buffalo needed to reach the salary cap floor over the summer, so they signed veteran free agents Brian Gionta, Andrej Meszaros and Matt Moulson. These additions add more skill and depth to the roster, but it still should be poor enough for the team to finish at the bottom of the Atlantic Division and secure a top draft pick.
Let’s preview the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres.
Key arrivals: Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson, Andrej Meszaros, Josh Gorges
Key departures: John Scott, Ville Leino, Cory Conacher, Christian Ehrhoff
Player to Watch
After winning the Calder Trophy with a 48-point campaign in 2009-10, Tyler Myers’ scoring totals have dropped in each of the last four seasons. The 6-foot-8, 219-pound defenseman has shown flashes of being a quality two-way player, but he hasn’t been able to play at a high level on a consistent basis. Myers rarely uses his size to his advantage in the defensive zone and doesn’t show the same playmaking/puck-moving abilities that helped him tally 37 assists as a rookie.
The former first-round draft pick must significantly improve in 2014-15 or the Sabres will need to strongly consider parting ways. The Sabres need a No. 1 D-man to build a future winning roster around, and Myers is running out of chances to prove he’s that type of player.
The Sabres scored just 1.83 goals per game last season, but they enter the 2014-15 campaign with decent depth down the middle. Young centers Tyler Ennis, Cody Hodgson and Zemgus Girgensons give Buffalo three quality, offensive-minded forwards who will create scoring chances. Hodgson and Ennis both hit the 20-goal mark in 2013-14 and are poised for even better performances this season. The addition of a former 30-goal scorer in Moulson adds much needed depth on the wings for Hodgson and/or Ennis.
Most Glaring Weakness
The Sabres have a ton of weaknesses, and most of them are on defense. They allowed 34.3 shots per game last season, the third-highest total in the league. It didn’t help that Buffalo won just 46.8 percent of its faceoffs, which ranked 29th. The Sabres also finished 25th in goals against and ranked 20th in penalty killing. Defense and goaltending win championships in the NHL, and Buffalo struggles mightily in both of these areas.
Expectations In 2014-15
The Sabres will be a bad team this season, and if there’s a year to finish at the bottom of the standings, it’s this one. As mentioned earlier, the 2015 draft class is loaded, and hockey fans in Buffalo understand what the team’s front office is planning for the future. In his short time in charge, general manager Tim Murray has been patient and acquired several draft picks to accelerate the team’s rebuild. There’s no need to deviate from that route.
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