Sabres offseason outlook
FINAL RECORD 2017-18 25-45-12 62 points dead last in the East.
Optimism was high in Pelgulaville that the team would turn the corner and be competitive for a lower seed in what looked to be the leagues weakest division. Instead they were more or less out of it early.
Looking back I am not sure where the optimism came from, Chad Johnson came back aboard as a mediocre backup goalie Pominville was back for a return engagement as a mediocre third liner, Marco Scandella was a mediocre 2nd pair defender. None of the additions were much.
Eichel was a point a game player but missed 18 games, O'reilly continues to be among the leagues most underrated centers, Reinhart caught fire late to finish with 25 goals, but that is about the extent of what went right. Moulson was awful early and paid to go away, Okposo was a shell of the long island version, Ristolainen chugged along to a nothing year, the first PPG from a defenseman didn't come until early February (!) Lehner was, well, Lehner. The team in short was a mess.
PROSPECTS: Casey Mittelstadt was sharp in his debut in the leagues last month and looks like a top line forward that Eichel desperately needs. The Sabres won the lottery and Rasmus Dahlin will be the first pick in the draft, most are comparing him to Karlsson as a silky smooth skater and fast as lightning. The two of themgive hope for the future. Brendan Guhle is a top four offensive defensemanwho is sure to stick next year. They will probably give Alexander Nylander a chance to stick because of his pedigree although he has done less than nothing in two years in Rochester and has wasted draft pick written all over him.
FREE AGENTS Lots of garbage players.
All played regular time last year because....well someone had to. None will be missed.
WITH MITTELSTADT AND DAHLIN IS THERE CAUSE FOR OPTOMISM? Yeah, maybe, a puck mover on the back end and a finisher to play alongside Eichel is reason for hope but there are too many holes on this team.
WHAT TO DO IN NET? Both goalies had a goals against over 3.00 which in todays game is something I cannot remember happened last, I think maybe Edmonton the year before they added McDavid. Johnson is gone (again) Linus Ullmark is not really much down at Rochester and nobody in the system is close to ready. Lehner has one more year left on his deal I could see the case for buying him out and starting fresh but if they think they aren't ready this year anyway they may as well let him finish out his deal and look next year. If Lehner is in net this comingseason it is proof they are not serious about winning.
IS THIS THE WORST LOCKERROOM IN HOCKEY?
By all accounts yes, and that is even after trading Evander 'track suit' Kane.
O'Reilly has a well deserved rep as a pain in the ass to management and supposedly was disliked by teammates in Colorado, Eichel has a rep as spoiled, inmature and a jerk, Reinhart was snapping at any reporter who came near him early in the year when he was slumping badly. The team needs a new captain and a new focus. Part of it is owner Pegula supposedly has an open door to all the young players who can come whine about management and get an ego stroke session. Owners and players mixing and hanging out usually always ends badly and in this case it seems to be affecting the locker room. Nothing winning cannot cure tho.
WHEN WILL THEY WIN?
Three years after the Apocalypse.
Ahh ... I see what you did there.
I have NO clue what is going to happen in Sabre Land. One would have thought they would have improved last year. Unless, of course, they decided to tank once again to have hopes of winning the Lottery, which they did, and land Dahlin. So do you paor him with Risto? Dahlin automatically gets top minutes on PP1. Risto struggled last year. Was that anomaly, or is there more than meets the eye?
Reinhart, as you mentioned, finally had some success later in the season. However, he was all over the line-up last year. Top line all the way down to the 3rd. To succeed, he needs to have more consistency to what line he plays on.
Goalie is a serious issue for this team, just like for the Flyers. I know they have a kid somewhere in Juniors that HJ keeps bragging about, but 1) I don't remember his name and 2) I can't remember where he is playing.
Agree.... the locker room is a mess.
My other question is.... Does Housley have the chops to be a NHL Head Coach?????
I think Ristolainen comes back strong - call it a "sophomore slump" coupled with being the focus of every team since he was the only real puck-moving defenceman on the squad.
I still think $10M was too much too soon for Eichel. He's got to stay healthy and he's got to be a 30+ goal scorer (probably 35+) for that to work out long term.
In a "down, depressing" year for O'Reilly he only managed his second-highest point and goal totals of his career and flat out dominated on the faceoff dot. I'd like to see what he can do on a team that is "going somewhere."
Big questions with depth and in the crease are the main issues. $5.6M for a declined, 35-year-old Pominville is fine for a team with the cap room, but overall a waste of money and Moulson was a flat out mistake from the moment they traded for him (forget the re-signing, which was egregious). I'm betting Lehner is back for at least the short term, which I don't like, but it what it is. I'd let an arbitrator figure out what 3.01/.908 is worth in this league - although he does have two seasons where he was .920 or higher, he's got to be more consistent.
They have $19M in cap room, so they can do "something" - I'm just worried that "something" might be in the "James van Riemsdyk" category instead of "John Tavares" category (who they have no shot at). Maybe they make a run at a John Carlson type for the blue line?
The Sabres used to be a pretty good franchise. I'm guessing most of their fans figured once a filthy rich owner bought the team all their troubles would be over. But filthy rich and hockey smart are not the same thing, as Pegula has proven over and over.
There's talent there, but it's starting to look like the stink of losing might not be as easy to get rid of as you'd think. Dahlin can't hurt though. And there's a few more good young pieces. But the FA signings they've made for the most part have ranged from stinky to rancid.
PS....congrats on tying the knot.