I believe that I did something similar to this last season before the season began and the Sabres failed to qualify for the playoffs. This season the national media has really put the Sabres down and they come with few expectations. There are still plenty of questions but the team can become a playoff caliber team.
Five Burning Questions
The Sabres were the leagues highest scoring team in 2006-2007 and they went on to win the Presidents Trophy. In 2007-2008 they only dropped down to fourth in the league behind only Ottawa, Montreal and Detroit. Many people suggest that the Sabres will not score that many goals this season and that players like Derek Roy (32 goals), Jason Pominville (27 goals), Jochen Hecht (22 goals), Ales Kotalik (23 goals) and Daniel Paille (19 goals) over-achieved last season. Did the Sabres forwards indeed over-achieve?
The Sabres have some extremely talented forwards that have enjoyed offensive success in the NHL. Derek Roy has put up good offensive numbers at every level of hockey and he had a breakout season last year. It was the first time Roy was given the responsibilty of being the top line center and he thrived in that role.
Jason Pominville has scored 61 goals in the last two seasons and yet people say he has over-achieved. He scored 27 goals last season which was his lowest total in the past five seasons between both Rochester and Buffalo. Pominville has a bunch of talent and will not slow down in the near future.
The other guys I've listed are opportunity guys, they take advantage of opportunities. They may not be as productive offensively this season as they were last season but if they aren't someone else will.
- In 2006-2007 Thomas Vanek led the Sabres high-powered offense with 43 goals and 41 assists for 84 points. His numbers decreased last year to 36 goals and 28 assists for only 64 points. There are people that think he will drop even lower this season and still others that think he could score 50 goals. Can Thomas Vanek score 50 goals this season?
There isn't a player on the Sabres roster that is a better goal scorer than Thomas Vanek. It's often said about goal scorers, you either have it or you don't. well Thomas Vanek has it. The problem with Vanek is that he is often too creative and tries making a perfect pass when he should take a shot. Vanek led the Sabres in goals with 36 and in shots-on-goal with 240 but when compared to a large number of the top goal scorers he doesn't shoot enough. Alex Ovechkin scored a league high 65 goals but took a total of 446 shots-on-goal.
It's not only Ovechkin, many of the top goal scorers took many more shots than Vanek did. Their are certain gusy that are outstanding goal scorers that don't shoot often but score a lot of goals like Daniel Alfredsson (40 goals-217 shots), Dany Heatley (41 goals-224 shots) and Brad Boyes (43 goals-207 shots) but there are others that get a lot of credit because they shoot a lot like Jarome Iginla (50 goals-338 shots), Henrik Zetterberg (43 goals-358 shots) and Vinny Lecavalier (40 goals-318 shots). I think you get the point, if Vanek shoots more he can easily become a 50 goal scorer.
- Ryan Miller has become known as one of the top goalies in the league but last year he had a rather forgettable season. His numbers were certainly not as good as years past but more importantly he seemed to lack confidence at times, especcially in odd-man situations. Will Ryan Miller bounce back this season?
This is probably the biggest question mark surrounding this team this season. Miller seems to have the right mindset to have a bounce back season but there are still many holes in his game that need to be fixed. He seems to go down on his knees way too early, exposing the top part of the net, especially on shots from inside the face-off circle.
Miller seems to realize that last season he tried to do too much and maybe over-played some key situations. That is importnat because as a goalie you have to have faith in your team or you will fail miserably. It was evident that last season he had no faith in his team to help him out and often allowed soft goals because of it.
- There has been much-to-do about the "mistakes" that management has made in the past by allowing Chris Drury and Danny Briere to leave via free agnecy and of course trading away Brian Campbell. Did Sabres management do enough this off-season by making a few acquisitions and re-signing Ryan Miller, Danny Paille and Jason Pominville, to make people forget about the past?
It's unfortunate for Sabres management but the only thing that will erase what has alraedy been done is for the team to win. The fans in Buffalo have been so brainwashed by the news media that they can no longer form their own opinion regarding what has happened with Sabres management.
If you take a step back and look at the team as it's currently constructed and the salaries this year and into the future it is pretty obvious that there is not a whole lot of money left. I'm certainly not a math major but I'm pretty certain that the Sabres would not have been able to sign all the players they have over the past two seasons and still keep Drury, Briere and Campbell. Somebody had to go and the franchise decided to stay younger...it was a calculated risk that may or may not pay off.
- The Sabres missed the playoffs last season, just one year removed from winning the Presidents Trophy. In the off-season they went out and acquired Craig Rivet (trade) and Patrick Lalime (free agency) as well as the addition of Teppo Numminen who missed last year after having heart surgery. Did the Sabres do enough in the off-season to get them into the top eight this season?
I believe they did. The biggest problem for this team last season was the mental atmosphere surrounding this team. We were reminded every single day about how much better the team would have been with Drury and Briere, it was a tough situation for a predominantly young team.