The Sabres continued their recent draft trend of going for bigger, grittier talent
Buffalo's draft class was heralded as one of the best in the 2013 draft. Of course, it's way too early to declare it a rousing success, but the additions of towering defensemen Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov in the first round add to the Sabres growing list of big, tough guys that come with plenty of skill. Gone are the days of 5'11'' blueliners and small, quick wingers, and here are the days of Justin Bailey: Power Forward (tm) and the hardest working man on the ice in J.T. Compher. The defensemen are the only ones who have a chance of seeing NHL ice time this season, but this June brought another draft class full of promise for the future of the blue and gold.
Traded Andrej Sekera for Jamie McBain
Andrej Sekera was the Sabres jack-of-all-trades defenseman - he was pretty good at many things, and great at a few, but his inconsistency and inability to produce offensively in recent years soured him in the eyes of management. His replacement came in the form of Jamie McBain, the perennially up-and-down 25-year old from Carolina. McBain certainly has shown more offensive upside than Sekera, but he's shown even more inconsistency than the man whose job he now has. If Ron Rolston can help McBain steady his game, the Sabres may have found a valuable addition to their always-crowded blue line.
Ron Rolston fills out his coaching staff
Just before the start of free agency, the Sabres snagged themselves some free agent coaches, most notably assistant coach Joe Sacco. Sacco was last seen in Colorado, where he was a Jack Adams nominee for helping a young Avs team surprise the Western Conference. Sacco is also noted for his large body of work with younger players, and should make for a potent combination along with Rolston to help what will likely be one of the youngest squads in the NHL play up to their potential. Buffalo most notably retained Teppo Numminen as a second assistant coach, Jim Corsi coaching the 'tenders, and Doug McKenny as strength and conditioning coach, among others from the previous regime.
The Sabres also hired Buffalo native and former Niagara assistant Jerry Forton to be the team's third assistant coach. Forton has been a collegiate coach for many years, with assistant coaching stints at Harvard, and UMass-Lowell, which savvy fans will recognize as the program from which the Sabres plucked Chad Ruhwedel last season.
The small man with the big heart, Nathan Gerbe, was waived and subsequently bought out by the Sabres, just days after they said they weren't planning on buying anyone out. Thus ended the tenure of one of the more polarizing figure on the roster, with fans debating whether heart trumped production, or vice versa. Gerbe's departure opens up yet another spot for a youngster to prove their worth as a useful piece of the franchise's rebuild.
Buffalo was quiet in free agency, making just one significant move by bringing Henrik Tallinder back in to the fold. Tallinder is coming off of an injury-plagued season in New Jersey, but with just a one year deal, the 34-year old blueliner is a safe gamble. Many fans are thinking that Tallinder was brought back in part (or in entirely) to help Tyler Myers find his once-promising game again. It remains to be seen whether Tallinder can do that, or whether he has enough left in the tank to help a Sabres defensive crops that was very up-and-down behind Christian Ehrhoff.
New divisions and new teams
No longer will the Sabres play for the Northeast Division title - the Atlantic Division is now their home, and with it comes new divisional foes in Detroit, Tampa Bay, and Florida.
But the biggest story of the summer...
Was how the Sabres managed to anger the entire hockey world with a series of never-ending Tweets showcasing hilariously zoomed, cropped, and rotated photos of their new
pants third jersey. When they mercifully came to the realization that not all press is good press, they finally cut the cord on this project by having Steve Ott reveal the jersey with a cell phone photograph on his Twitter account.
What followed was maybe the biggest deluge of negative press I've ever seen for a jersey unveiling. Sabres fans hated it, national media hated it, bloggers hated it, and it remains to be seen whether or not all this negative energy will carry over to the season, where fans will have to watch the Sabres wear this monstrosity 11 times.
So that just about covers it, I think-
Wait! Has Cody Hodgson signed his RFA contract yet?
Yeah. But don't worry, the recently signed RFA Nazem Kadri's contract could serve as a kickstarter to the quiet negotiations between Hodgson and the Sabres. For better (contract) or for worse (trade) expect to hear some news on this front sometime in the next few days.
That should do it, Sabres fans. Did we miss anything? What moves do you think will make the biggest difference next season? Let us know in the comments.