The new year is upon us, and with it, 2021 is going to bring some exciting things to look forward to for the NHL, the Buffalo Sabres and their fans and players. After the crazy, tumultuous year that was, the new year should bring a little bit of calmness and stability, a little bit of a return to normalcy and opportunities for players to showcase just how much they’ve grown.
It’ll be 311 days since a Sabres game when the team kicks off the season later this month... not that anyone’s been counting or anything, of course. With that said, here are a few things to look forward to in the year ahead:
Taylor Hall in Blue & Gold
Did anyone else get a chill up their spine when they saw the first photos of Taylor Hall in the Sabres’ royal blue from Friday’s morning practice? It’s a perfect way to kick off the new year, and in just about two weeks, we’ll get to watch him hit the ice for real, in a game that counts.
The 29-year-old has 575 points in 641 career NHL games, including 136 goals. He’s recorded four hat tricks - the last came in December 2013 - and has averaged 19:05 per game of ice time in regular-season games in his career.
Taylor Hall's first day on the ice with the Sabres was a success— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) January 1, 2021
Watch his full post-practice interview: https://t.co/ymjFgLtmcy pic.twitter.com/ju0CpdCNC8
No New Friends
Things will certainly feel different this year with the NHL’s realignment. The Sabres will retain their divisional rivalry with the Boston Bruins, but otherwise, we can look forward to some new budding “friendships” in teams like the Flyers, Capitals and Penguins. Don’t forget, the Sabres will play each of the other teams in their division a whopping eight times. That’s eight matchups against Zdeno Chara, Alex Ovechkin & the Washington Capitals; against Sidney Crosby, Jason Zucker and the Pittsburgh Penguins; and Jack Hughes, Lindy Ruff and the New Jersey Devils. It’ll make for some fun new rivalries.
Right now, Dylan Cozens is busy in Edmonton, absolutely tearing up the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team Canada. The tournament ends on January 5, and then Cozens will head to Buffalo to join the Sabres in their pre-season camp. Quarantine requirements may delay Cozens’ actually joining the team, but fear not: at some point, we will get to see him on the ice with the likes of Jack Eichel, Sam Reinhart, Taylor Hall and Eric Staal. Cozens is certainly a bright spot in the Sabres’ future and it begins when he steps on that ice at KeyBank Center later this month.
@Dylan_Cozens is on !— IIHF (@IIHFHockey) December 30, 2020
Deflected from @ColePerfetti91 and chipped in it's 2-0 for @HC_WJC over @SwissIceHockey #WorldJuniors pic.twitter.com/1j7pi4xdSU
The Return of Eichel
We get to see Jack Eichel play hockey again, which is always a treat in & of itself. We may not know what will happen this season in regards to the Sabres’ performance as a team, and none of us can predict what Eichel’s future with the team may look like - but we can enjoy his skill and flash, and that’s a gift of its own.
What else can we look forward to?
Who knows? Goodness knows none of us could have predicted 2020, so I’m not about to try to make any predictions for 2021. All I know is, there are definitely some things to look forward to in the Sabres’ future, from Cozens and Eichel to Ruotsalainen (hopefully in Buffalo, please), seeing where Jack Quinn ends up for the season, hopefully getting to watch an Amerks season, and following what GM Kevyn Adams does as the year progresses.