While we have been profiling the impact of all of the players on the roster, its time for us to come out with our network preview. With the lack of turnover on the roster during the offseason, the Sabres should be considered to be a serious candidate to win the Northeast Division again and just maybe get out of the first round again.
The Buffalo Sabres did have an impressive regular season as they had their first 100 point season since 2007 and won the division and earned the third overall seed in the Eastern Conference. The wheels fell off the bus in the Stanley Cup Playoffs as the Sabres were outmatched by a Boston Bruin team that ended up making the Eastern Conference Semifinals before losing in seven games to the Philadelphia Flyers.
On the offensive side of the puck, it was the first season since 2005-06 that Tim Connolly played more than 60 games in a season and his offensive output increased with the increase in games from 47 points to 65 points. Thomas Vanek had a disappointing season scoring only 28 goals, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2005-06. While nothing was physically wrong with Vanek last season, his own personal expectations creates more pressure than any criticism from the media or the fans.
The major storyline from the defense is the emergence of Tyler Myers. Myers was a first round pick in the 2008 NHL Draft and with his first legitimate tryout with the team last season, he impressed everyone from media to fans to the coaching staff. After earning a spot on the roster through his nine game tryout, Myers ended up playing in all 82 games last season and won the Calder Trophy for the league's outstanding rookie player. Along with Myers, Henrik Tallinder found somewhat of a resurgence in his career. After struggling the last few seasons, Tallinder found himself paired with Myers last season and turned that opportunity into a career year with 4 goals and 20 points, three year highs.
The Sabres goaltending all hinges on how Ryan Miller plays and in the 2009-10 season, he played out of his mind. Posting a 2.22 goals against average and .929 save percentage in 69 games played earned Miller the 2010 Vezina Trophy. Those numbers were relatively repeated in the playoffs with a 2.34 goals against and .926 save percentage, but could not outduel Tuukka Rask for the series win. Both Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth made appearances last season, Lalime posting a 2.81 goals against and .907 save percentage in 16 games while Enroth had a 4.14 goals against and .892 save percentage in his only appearance against the Bruins.
More after the jump including the strengths and weaknesses of this team.
1.) The most obvious strength of the Buffalo Sabres is Ryan Miller and his goaltending ability. Along with having an award winning season with the Sabres, he also became Captain America with his superior goaltending in the Winter Olympics on his way to a silver medal. As I said before, the way of the team goes with how Miller plays this season and many expect Miller to regress a little after such an impressive season.
2.) The first two lines of the defense is a solid core, led by Calder Trophy winning defenseman Tyler Myers. Along with Craig Rivet, Shaone Morrisonn, and Jordon Leopold, the Sabres defense should be as solid as it was last season. The Sabres as a team allowed a fourth best 2.45 goals/game and was a team that could hold a lead in the regular season, going 30-0 when the team was leading after the second period.
3.) The penalty kill has always been a solid part of the team, killing 86.6% last season, second best in the league. Most of the players that were on the penalty kill have returned this season so it should be another solid group this coming season.
1.) While the penalty kill is really a plus for this team, the power play is the exact opposite. Converting on only 17.6% of chances, good for 17th in the league, the Sabres seem to miss a definite powerplay quarterback that can effectively lead a unit. Tyler Myers is being groomed to take that role, but is still fairly green on the power play.
2.) While the Sabres had a fairly decent offense last season, scoring 231 total goals good for 10th overall, the team seems to miss a definitive scorer on the team. Only four players scored more than 20 goals and no player scored more than 30. Being able to spread out the offense may be a good thing, but not having that player that can effectively scare a team is a minus.
3.) Most Sabres fans feel that most of the team is too soft and would like to gut most of the offense. While softness is still an issue with the team, team toughness has been addressed in the offseason so it remains to see how it will play out.
|Center||Left Wing||Right Wing||Defense||Goaltender|
|Tim Connolly||Thomas Vanek||Jason Pominville||Tyler Myers||Ryan Miller|
|Derek Roy||Tyler Ennis||Drew Stafford||Shaone Morrisonn||Patrick Lalime|
|Rob Niedermayer||Jochen Hecht||Mike Grier||Jordon Leopold||Jhonas Enroth|
|Paul Gaustad||Nathan Gerbe||Patrick Kaleta||Craig Rivet|
|Matt Ellis||Cody McCormick||Steve Montador|
The Buffalo Sabres should have another solid season in 2010-2011. The Sabres will be contenders for the Northeast Division, but they won't break 100 points again this season, ending up with 98 points on the season. 98 points won't win them the division, but it should give them a solid 5th seed in the Eastern Conference