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Camp Preview Part II: No Offense Taken

I want to apologize that this post is a up one day late.  If you came here yesterday to read this post and it wasn't here (oh who am I kidding nobody came looking) anyway I'm sorry.  The next two editions of the Camp Preview will definitely be on time.

August 19th: Defending the Prize
August 26th: No offense Taken
September 2nd: Put me in coach
September 9th: Follow the leader

Last week we talked about the Sabres decision to put a little bit of thought into playing defense as opposed to last seasons run-n-gun type strategy.  This week we will talk about how the Sabres haven't lost as much as you think offensively.  I am well aware that both Chris Drury (37-32-69) and Daniel Briere (32-63-95) have moved on and left a void totaling 69 goals and 95 assists.  This is very difficult to replace and the Sabres did not sign any free agents to help fill the void.  They will instead rely on players already on the roster.

There is a reason that the Sabres signed Thomas Vanek and Derek Roy to monster contracts.  The Sabres will rely heavily on the line of Vanek, Roy and Afinogenov.  Last season Vanek had 43 goals and 84 points in 82 games, Afinogenov had 23 goals and 61 points in 56 games and Roy was the only one not to avrage a point a game at 21 goals and 63 points in 75 games.  Is it crazy to think that they could improve upon those numbers?  I don't think it is, I could see these guys having an even better this season than last.

The Sabres played almost the entire season without Tim Connolly who was a key contributor in 2005-2006.  Connolly is going to start the 2007-2008 season healthy and should step in to alleviate some of the offense that was lost when Drury and Briere departed for greener pastures.  Connolly seemed to come into his own late in last seasons playoffs after playing only two regular season games.  If Connolly can step in and have a 75 point season that will ease the burden on the top line of Vanek, Afinogenov and Roy.

The Sabres welcomed rookie Drew Stafford into the lineup last season and he had 13 goals and 27 points in 41 games for the Sabres.  This season Stafford is expected to be on the big club for an entire season  and big things are expected out of him in his second season.  Stafford is a very talented player who I would compare to Thomas Vanek in talent.  Vanek had a solid rookie season in 2005-2006 with 25 goals and 23 assists in 81 games before exploding onto the scene last year.  If Stafford has a similar jump in production, and I fully expect he will, the Sabres will benefit from his increased role with the club.

The Sabres will not be the same team they were a year ago but they will certainly not lack in the goal scoring department.  Is it reasonable to assume that the players I just spoke of could account for 69 goals that were lost?  It is a bold prediction but I think so, it is an average of about 12 goals per player but keep in mind that Stafford and Connolly are expected to have huge improvemant over last season.  

Next Sunday will be installment number three of the Camp Preview.  Next week's topic will be "Put me in coach".  Make sure to check out which Sabres will step up and play a bigger role in the team.