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5 Things: Buffalo Sabres



Welcome to the “5 things” series here at Two Pad Stack!

As we head toward the twilight days of summer, each team has some unanswered questions that need addressing before the season gets started. Luckily for you, the staff here at 2PS will bring those questions to light.

Today, we take at the new and (sort of) improved Buffalo Sabres!

1. Will the Sabres be better in 2014/15?

Yes and no. Will they improve on their NHL-worst 52 points and 157 goals for? It would be really, really difficult for them to do worse at either. Still, don’t expect them to be contending for anything other than the right to choose first overall in a stacked draft.

Sure, they added by subtracted when they bought out Ville Leino. And yes, they added veteran scoring in Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta as well as solid defensive veterans Josh Gorges and Andrej

Meszaros, but did they really get that much better? Moulson was a part of this team last season before being moved at the deadline and Gionta was brought in more for his leadership than his scoring abilities.

Defensively, the team got older and steadier, but they didn’t add any difference-makers. In the end, the Sabres became much more competitive but they shouldn’t win many more games than the 21 they won last year.

2. Will anyone claim the starting job in net?

Jhonas Enroth and Michal Neuvirth will share duties this season as they did to close out the 2013/14 campaign. Both stood on their head at times last year behind a porous defense, but neither is capable of stealing multiple games a la departed Sabres goalie Ryan Miller.

Neuvirth is a bit bigger and has looked to be on the verge of breaking out in Washington for years before ending up in Buffalo. Enroth, meanwhile, keeps proving that he’s a solid NHL goaltender even if he’s never likely to be the #1 goalie the Sabres are looking for.

Neuvirth battled injury issues at the end of last season. Look for Enroth to get the bulk of the starts because of injury concerns with Neuvirth.

3. Is Tyler Myers ready to be the #1 defenseman?

Though he may never rediscover the offensive game that helped him win the Calder trophy back in 2009-10, Myers enjoyed his best season since his rookie campaign in 2013-14. For the past few years, he’s been heavily criticized because his level of play on the ice didn’t match his compensation. And yes, it’s always going to be difficult for Myers to justify his $5.5M cap hit without playing like one of the top defenders in the conference, but last year Myers was as close to justifying that as he’s been in years.

He scored the most goals he’s had in one year since 2010-11, looked more confident moving the puck out of his zone and showed stronger defensive play. He’ll likely never be the physical force his size will allow him to be, but he’s showing he can still use his reach to be a very good defenseman.

With Christian Ehrhoff out the door, it’s time for him to take the wheel and assert himself as the top defenseman in this group. That will go a long, long way in the rebuild effort.

4. Is anyone a threat to be moved this season?

For the most part, the Sabres have moved out who they are going to move and kept who they are going to keep. The only candidates, realistically anyways, to be moved are Chris Stewart and Drew Stafford. Both are unrestricted free agents after this season, both make north of $4M and both are disappointing power forwards who can still score 25+ goals.

Despite that label, both will have value come deadline time especially if they are playing well in a contract year. If the team can move them for more assets and to clear out space for some of the youngsters ready to make the jump next year, they will do so.

Tyler Myers is likely the only other name that will come up with any consistency, as he did last year, but that’s just not realistic at this point. The Sabres are high on him and won’t give him up for anything less than a serious overpayment which no team in their right mind would do. His name will come up, but he’s not a threat to go anywhere.

5. Which, if any, prospects can we expect to see this year?

Quite a few, actually. Second overall pick Sam Reinhart has inked his entry-level deal, so look for him in some capacity throughout the year. He’s got serious skills and it will be hard to keep him down in juniors.

Wingers Joel Armia and Johan Larsson will likely be given opportunities to make the lineup out of camp as well. Armia is a Finnish power forward with a nose for the net while Larsson is a solid two-way forward. Neither will likely make it this season, but could be one of the first call-ups as the season goes on.

Defensively, one of Chad Ruhwedel or Mark Pysyk is likely to grab a spot in the top six, but Rasmus Ristolainen will likely challenge as well. Nikikta Zadorov will get a look in camp, but expect him to end up back in juniors.

Read more at Two Pad Stack.


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