Believe it or not, we’re less than a month out from preseason games getting underway for the Buffalo Sabres. This summer has been full of changes as Jason Botterill promised would be the case back in the middle of April.
Looking at the team today, you can easily see the improvement (on paper) to almost every area on the roster. The top-six, bottom-six, defense, and goaltending have all arguably seen upgrades. We’ll see if that can translate onto the ice starting in 40 days.
The area of the roster that I’ve watched undergo a transformation for the better this offseason is the depth on the club, more specifically, the bottom-six.
For years, the depth on the Sabres has been an eye-sore. It’s one of the many reasons that the franchise has finished in last place for three of the last five seasons. They relied too much on the top players on the roster to carry the team, while the bottom of the roster was outplayed consistently by the opponent.
On paper, it finally looks like they have a bottom-six that can hold their own against other teams. Especially when you compare it against the lineup that was put on the ice last season.
We’re seeing Patrik Berglund, Vladimir Sobotka, Tage Thompson and Evan Rodrigues potentially take full-time roles in place of players like Jordan Nolan, Benoit Pouliot, and Jacob Josefson. If you just compare Berglund, Sobotka, and Thompson against Nolan, Pouliot, and Josefson in terms of goals last season. The Sabres added 12 goals to their lineup by swapping these players. Of course goal totals can change year over year, but it’s not a stretch to say they’ve improved the goal scoring.
Then add in a full season of Rodrigues who scored at a 12 goal and 43 point pace last season in 48 games with the Sabres you’re starting to see how the production is adding up.
Roster holdovers from last season like Jason Pominville, Scott Wilson, Johan Larsson and Zemgus Girgensons won’t have roster spots handed to them this season. Not only will they have to compete with each other for playing time. They’ll be pushed from below by players like C.J. Smith, Victor Olofsson, Sean Malone, Nick Baptise, Danny O’Regan and Justin Bailey.
The Sabres haven’t achieved that status of being one of the deepest teams in the league. However, they’ve at least moved into the respectable category. They have players who have a (recent) history of providing offense, playing a solid two-way game and adding some speed to the bottom of the lineup.
Heading into the season the question that will be left unanswered in terms of the bottom of the roster is what they’ll get from their group of prospects who are on the verge of making the jump to the NHL. It’s hard to quantify that at this point until we know which players, if any, will earn themselves a roster spot out of camp.
If nothing else it’ll be a fun storyline to watch throughout training camp on which players appear ready to make the jump.