There are questions for every team, just about every single season. The questions surrounding the Sabres this season are plentiful. In fact we had a hard time limiting it to just five burning questions. Left off the list were a couple of good questions with very short answers. Here is a little taste of the not-ready-for-primetime questions...Will Drew Stafford be signed and be i the lineup this season? (yes he will). Will the Sabres offense be affected by the new gritty players in the lineup? (NO it won't). Will the Sabres miss Maxim Afinogenov? (No they won't). Is Patrick Kaleta ready to become a better version of Andrew Peters? (I guess so).
I think you get the point. The questions I listed above are easily answered. Unfortunately there are other questions that cannot be answered as easily as the questions above. The question that everyone wants answered is a simple one...will the Sabres make the playoffs? I don't know the answer to that question yet but I'll try to answer some other questions.
Can Ryan Miller handle the workload of the Olympics and the Buffalo Sabres season?
The answer to this question could be the deal breaker or the Sabres. Miller is the most important player on this team and if he can't play the way he did last season, this team will be golfing in April again this season.
With that being said, I don't see any reason why he can't. Two seasons ago Miller had the worst season of his professional career and everyone blamed fatigue and playing too many games. Truth is, that was just a convenient excuse for poor play. Miller was bad that entire season, not just the end of the season when he played every game.
I'm not one for making excuses but there are plenty of reasons he could have played poorly that season. He could have been feeling the pressure of losing Chris Drury and Danny Briere, he could have been feeling the effects of the death of his cousin who he was close with. None of that really matters because he was outstanding last season.
I think Miller could play 100 games this season and still be good if he plays the game he played last season. He was always i position (although he still goes down too early), he played with confidence and most of all his teammates trusted him.
Will the young defensive corps be able to handle the loss of Jaro Spacek?
It depends on what will be expected of the defensive corps. Jaro Spacek was a decent two-way defenseman but his specialty was offense and the power play. It will difficult for the Sabres to overcome the loss of his offense. However, the Sabres signed Steve Montador, not as a replacement for Spacek but rather a change of strategy. The Sabres made an effort to bigger on the blue line and that showed by signing Montador and Joe Dipenta.
Will any of the young guys, namely Nathan Gerbe, Tim Kennedy, Mike Weber and Tyler Myers be able to crack the lineup and contribute this season?
I think we will see all of these guys in the lineup at some point this season. I think Tim Kennedy and Tyler Myers have the best shot at cracking the lineup on opening day (although many of you will say Gerbe). Kennedy is the most NHL ready of these players and the Sabres have an option to keep Myers for 10 games before they send him back to juniors.
I think it is a long shot that any of these players will be key contributors this season. In the next year or two we will see all these guys wearing the blue-and-gold on an everyday basis. The Sabres like what they have i the guys I listed as well as other young guys and why shouldn't they? Kennedy led all rookies in points in the AHL last season and Nathan Gerbe was named the rookie of the year. Tyler Myers led his team to a WHL Championship and an opportunity to play in the Memorial Cup.
Will Thomas Vanek be able to make the extra push and reach the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career?
This is a very dificult question to answer because Vanek needs some help from the players around him. If Vanek can stay healthy all season 50 goals is a very attainable goal. I have been a huge proponent of playing Vanek along side of Tim Connolly and that would be a match made in heaven for Vanek. There are very few players in the league that are as creative as Tim Connolly with the puck.
Of course that brings up an even bigger question. Can Tim Connolly stay healthy for an entire season. If history is any indication, it is unlikely that Connolly will stay on the ice all season.
Was the size and grit the Sabres added, enough to put them over the hump and into the playoffs?
Here is that playoff question again. On the surface the addition of Mike Grier and Steve Montador doesn't make the Sabres a playoff team but let's dig a little deeper. The addition of these players will not only help the Sabres be tougher but it will help the confidence of some of the other players. The entire complexion of the team changed just by signing a couple of fringe players. Guys like Derek Roy, Jason Pominville and Tim Connolly might benefit from the tougher players in the lineup.
It's time to make that prediction now. I think the Sabres are a playoff team. I thought they were a playoff team last season until injuries to Thomas Vanek and Ryan Miller derailed the Sabres season down the stretch. Injuries will play a factor but Darcy Regier added some NHL caliber players as depth and some of the young guys will be able to jump up and possibly make some contributions.
I would love to hear your thoughts on the Sabres seasona and the questions I have listed above. Training camp starts tomorrow and it's officially hockey season. The LONG summer is finally over.