The NHL season gets started this week and the Buffalo Sabres are looking to take the next step towards being a consistently competitive team. They made some good moves this offseason, but also are returning almost every player from last season.
Ralph Krueger also steps in as the new coach of the franchise. How much of an impact will he have on this season? A few staff members from the site got together to give their brief outlook on the season.
I’m doing a separate season preview for later this week, so I won’t go into a lot of depth here.
There’s no denying that Jason Botterill made some nice moves this summer acquiring Colin Miller, Marcus Johansson, Henri Jokiharju and to a little bit of a lesser extent, Jimmy Vesey. The dark cloud that hangs over the club at this point is the inability to move anyone off the roster. With the exception of Jason Pominville, the Sabres returned every player from last season. It was Botterill’s responsibility to cut some of the fat off the roster.
Realistically the Sabres are going to need a lot to go their way to compete for the playoffs this season. They’ll need a drastic improvement from the goaltending and a handful of players to have career seasons.
Unfortunately, I don’t see it. At this point, I’d say they’re at best a mid-80’s point team.
Point Projection: 84 points
Another season, another head coach, more new faces. This could turn out one of two ways really, with all the unknowns surrounding the team and coach effects going the Sabres’ way and a 90+ point total, or about half going Buffalo’s way and half not, with a net zero result which means another top five draft pick. Or...nothing works out for us yet again and we have another total tire fire but I am refusing to acknowledge that as a possibility because the last shred of positivity has not yet been wrung out of me by this team, yet.
Most of the hockey analytics I see are pointing to Buffalo having another playoffs-less season and my gut feel is that they’re right. We might see more positive spells like that time last season when for a brief period we were top of the league, but overall I still don’t see the quality and depth in goaltending, defense or in the top nine for a 82-game season to stretch into late spring and summer.
The power play should be exciting though on both units, so maybe as long as we keep scoring through that we won’t be abject, but as well know, 5 on 5 is where the game is won and Ralph Krueger has a helluva job on his hands to fix that.
Alas, another postseason playing golf is all I can see for the Sabres in their 50th anniversary season.
Point Projection: 85 points
At the risk of sounding like a broken record, the changes the Sabres made (or perhaps didn’t make) this summer probably wasn’t enough to get them into the playoff picture this year. Sure, they made some renovations both on defense, and up front, but until the young guys/new additions supplant the underperforming incumbents that were inexplicably retained, fans can expect only minor improvements.
The Sabres success in the 2019-20 season will be heavily reliant on Krueger implementing a system that squeezes every ounce of potential out of a somewhat lackluster roster (in terms of both depth, and overall talent). Perhaps if the goaltending tandem improves drastically, and young players like Mittelstadt, Olofsson, and Thompson make significant strides, we’ll see a significant leap in the standings.
Simply put, a lot has to go right for this team to find itself in the playoff conversation come March.”
Point Projection: 81 points
Bear with me here, this might sound a little pessimistic: I don’t expect too much from the Sabres this season. With a lot of the same roster sticking around, including Vladimir Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Johan Larsson upfront and Marco Scandella and a less-than-thrilled Rasmus Ristolainen on the backend, it’s hard to look at this year’s roster and see a lot of positive change. With that said, I’m intrigued to see what Marcus Johansson is capable of this season, and hopefully see Victor Olofsson in his first NHL season.
I think the Sabres have made some improvements over the offseason, but unfortunately still don’t see them making it into a playoff position just yet. They weren’t exactly close last season - 22 points out of the final wild card spot - so it won’t be a quick, simple jump to get to the postseason.
Point Projection: 83 points
Like the last couple seasons I’ll head into this season with some kind of optimism about the upcoming year, despite I perhaps should have learnt by now not to expect good results when it comes to the Sabres. But I feel like they may have struck gold with the hiring of Kreuger as head coach based on what I’ve read about him and also what I’ve heard from a former NHL player that have played under Kreuger. He may not be the best tactician but just the amount of mental boost he is known to give his players may go a long way regarding the Sabres doing better than the last years.
Add to that the expected growth of Rasmus Dahlin, Jack Eichel and a couple more interesting names, heck, even Tage Thompson looked like he’s taking big strides during pre season, and the additions of Colin Miller and Marcus Johansson and I feel like this could finally be the year we are competing for real and not just during a record breaking winning streak.
A part of the excitement for the season is the double header against Tampa Bay in Stockholm, Sweden that I’ll attend. Worst case scenario this season is that the team continues to lose but I’ll at least see them do it on Swedish soil. But I’m passive optimistic about what’s around the corner.
Point projection: 87 points
Last season, I tentatively projected 84 points. After 25 games, I was ashamed of my lack of confidence. By the season’s end, I was astonished how much I had overshot what the team was capable of.
So, like any Buffalo fan, I am stubbornly sticking to what didn’t even come close to working previously. I think that the additions that the team has made have given them a chance to spread the scoring around quite a bit more than last season. The defense should be better. The projection is only four games better than last season – which I think this team is capable of.
It’s true that it means that they finish in the same spot they did before, given last season’s standings. It’s also true that the teams above them have also added to their rosters in a way that improves their respective teams, so I think it will be difficult for Buffalo to move up and beyond them.
Point Projection: 84 points
A new season means renewed hope - as usual. We spend time looking up-and-down the roster and find ourselves staring down a large cast of disappointing characters that appear to be returning. In his first season as Sabres head coach, Ralph Krueger brings a new set of eyes on this team but it certainly appears to be difficult when attempting to win with the depth likes of Vladimir Sobotka, Zemgus Girgensons and Kyle Okposo. Either way, it seems like another rebuilding year for this team - buckle up.
Point Projection: 85 points