Rasmus. Dahlin. Are you sick of hearing his name yet, Buffalo? In the immortal words of Samuel L. Jackson, ‘Hold on to your butts.’ Things are only going to get worse from here.
Or better, if you’re into that ‘bright side’ perspective. The Dahlin glass is certainly more than half-full, and all reports indicate that the young defender will live up to the hype.
These high expectations have a habit of coming back to haunt Buffalo fans, so for the mental well-being of the greater Western New York area, perhaps it is better to temper these presumptions - to live in the present, as it were.
All warnings aside, though; how incredible is it to think that the league’s least-competitive team in the last few seasons could contend for a playoff spot next year? Is it really possible to make a Leafs-like turnaround with the addition of just one player?
Nope. Not even a little. This Sabres squad, as it is currently designed, is missing a few pieces that Toronto already had in place (or spent the summer acquiring) as the rebound season approached. It’s going to take more than a Dahlin to turn this tank into a lean, mean playoff machine.
Optimistically, this could be an incredible summer for the Sabres. Free agents know who’s coming to town. The potential for a trade seems high as a few disenfranchised players might not be too upset to see themselves in a different sweater next season. Rochester had a strong season in the AHL, and a few of those players could be poised to jump into the big time once the puck drops on the 2018-19 season.
With the NHL combine coming quickly, a lot will be said about what the team should do about the second pick in the draft. Slotted just outside of the first round, the pick at 32 has the potential to still be an impact player.
While there is little question that Buffalo could benefit from the player chosen first in the second round, there are certainly other teams that could, too. Those teams might be willing to part with veteran leadership in order to acquire such a lofty choice.
We all remember the talks of Cam Fowler that lasted a couple of seasons. Teams like Anaheim and San Jose - and even Los Angeles - have an aging lineup and are going to need to refresh soon. All three have picks in the second half of the first round, and doubling down on youth might serve any of these west coast dynasties.
Dahlin could come in and have an impact season like Auston Matthews or Nico Hischier. The concern, of course, is that Buffalo has a tendency to bring in these highly touted defensemen and hang them out to dry; Tyler Myers and Rasmus Ristolainen, for example.
The team needs to be very careful not to waste this opportunity with Dahlin, and give the young phenom the support that he needs. There is a good chance we see Brendan Guhle in the top six this year, and again, the talented rookie will need a solid veteran for support.
One name that hasn’t been mentioned very often is Lucas Sbisa. While his time in Vancouver was less-than-stellar, he suffered mightily from Risto-syndrome, surrounded by a team that wasn’t able to support him. He could easily fill a top pairing role on this club, and now has Stanley Cup experience to add to his resume.
Last year, fans saw general manager Jason Botterill work hard to refresh the roster, and while those players didn’t necessarily click the way he had hoped, there were a lot of lessons learned in his first offseason as head of the front office. Getting the most out of the second round pick, and not selling out the salary cap for defensive support should unquestionably be his top priorities as the calendar flips to June.