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Bright future in Buffalo


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They broke into the NHL during the 1970-71 season with head coach George “Punch” Imlach. Like many expansion or relocated teams, the Buffalo Sabers missed the playoffs in the inaugural season that saw 78 games. Their average attendance that season was only 9,721 as they would watch the Sabers land 24-39-15. Since then, Buffalo has gone from the East, to Adams to the Northeast and now the Atlantic divisions. In 45 seasons, Buffalo has only missed the playoffs 14 times, however, it is their lack of post-season appearances of late that makes Buffalo an expected win for many teams. In the past 12 seasons the Sabers have missed 8 times and look to miss a 9th season in 13 and four in a row.


In the 2013-14 season, Buffalo would end with the worst NHL record and 2nd worst record since their 2nd season in Buffalo. Though Buffalo would deserve the #1 pick, they would lose it in the NHL draft lotto to Florida, who lost their #1 pick to Colorado the year before. Missing out on a second franchise defensemen, Buffalo would select Kootenay Ice stand out Sam Reinhart. With high hopes and expectation, Buffalo would play Reinhart for 9 games before sending him back to juniors for developmental reason, after he had 1 assist and a -1 in those 9 games. Reinhart should be in the lineup next season, similar to Tampa Bay Lightning standout Jonathan Drouin.


Joining Reinhart in the draft was a very unhappy Brendan Lemieux. Lemieux felt he was worthy enough to be taken in the first round by teams his father, Claude Lemieux, played for in the past. Lemieux did not get a roster shot this season and could spend more than just this season in Barrie. Also selected in the 2nd round along-side Lemieux was Eric Cornel of the Peterborough Petes. Cornel’s numbers in juniors are very comparable to Brendan Lemieux. Cornel was sent back to juniors as well and has yet to play in an NHL game, though he and Reinhart will more than likely be the two of the top 3 centers in the future. Tyler Ennis is the clear number one, and a dog fight between Cody Hodgson, Sam Reinhart and Eric Cornel is to be in the future. I

This largest issue for Buffalo is a clear cut case of a number one goalie. As back up to Ryan Miller, Jhonas Enroth began to make a case early that Miller might need to watch her rearview. In 15 career games, Enroth was 9-3-2 but then it happened, he began to show he just maybe wasn’t a number. In the next 81 career games, Enroth would go 21-41-11, numbers that a starting NHL goalie should never have. Jhonas is only four career games shy of 100, so an early congratulations to him. Like Jhonas Enroth, Micheal Neuvirth showed early signs that the starting goalie in Washington should watch out. In 70 career games, Neuvirth was 38-17-4, he had a case to fight for number one as his numbers were outstanding. In his next 76 games, a 24-31-10 record shows a new side to the young goalie. He shows flashes of solid play and proves he can be a number one, however he does not have any consistency to his game.


Michael Neuvirth would injure his knee on November 18th against the San Jose Sharks and will miss a significant amount of time. Enroth would get the win in San Jose, even though he did not start. Including that win, Jhonas is 4-1-0 with back to back wins over the Montreal Canadians. Matt Hackett is serving as backup and has not played a game this season, he owns a 4-13-1 career record.


Second most questionable thing in Buffalo is their defense. They are not getting very much production from the back six. Tyler Myers, Buffalo’s 2008 12th overall pick, has 1 goal, 4 assists and is -6 on the season and has 0 points in the last 3 games. With no support coming from the backend, the goalies are hung out to dry and the offense cannot get the breakouts they need to help produce the goals for the wins. Going 5-1-0 in their last 6, Buffalo is looking for a defensive spark to keep the team from the bottom of the league two seasons in a row. Though this would be the year to be at the bottom with Connor McDavid on the rise. 



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Nice write up.


The big problem with the Sabres is they have little 'ready now' players to contribute to the team. Girgensons is proving his mettle in the NHL but most of the kids have looked lost. I blame the vets for a lot of this, a Moulson or Gionta should figure out a way to help the kids along.


  The defense, they drafted two top tier prospects a couple a years ago in Ristolainen and Zadorov who have been cutting their teeth on the blue line with mixed results. Myers has been a mixed bag, flashes of brilliance, his rookie year he showed signs of being a top pair guy for a decade but since then he has fallen. Again, he needs real help on the back end to grow.


  Overall, I like the future of the team, but it is not going to be an overnight thing. I believe that even though Myers is still young that they should trade him for a pretty good package before his value is gone. Sadly, I don't think that he will be there when it finally comes together so you might as well get the most bang for your buck now.

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