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yave1964

Broken Swords, Sabres year in review

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Each year I do a quick writeup on each team at years end starting with the teams that missed the postseason, I put a hockey card for each in a bowl and pick one out at a time to determine order, kind of like Bettman does for the draft picks. Sabres were the first out so here goes nothing.

 

PRESEASON OUTLOOK: Rather hopeful, they had the first pick in the draft and added 18 year old defensive phenom Dahlin, the Hurricanes donated Skinner for nothing, long rumored locker room cancer O'Reilly was moved out for a package, Carter Hutton came in to solve the net problem, the hope was they would contend for a playoff spot.

 

FINAL RECORD 33-39-10 76 points 6th in the division.

 

HIGH POINT OF THE SEASON: Man they started hot and it looked like they were for real, from Nov 8th thru the 27th they were world beaters, winning ten in a row, beating the Pens, Sharks, Jets, even the Lightning along the way. At that point they were sitting at 17-6-2. After a stumble post winning streak they bounced back with another mini streak and after beating the Bruins in Dec 16th they were sitting at 20-9-5 and it looked like a lock they would make the playoffs. Skinner looked like he would lead the league in goals, Housley was being mentioned for the Adams.

 

LOW POINT OF THE SEASON: Pretty much everything else. for the rest of the season the Sabres went 13-30-5 as everything went wrong. The team completely gave up down the stretch, from mar 2nd thru Apr 2nd they went 1-13-2 and were booed off the ice at home regularly. At years end Housley was canned.

 

WHAT WENT RIGHT: Jeff Skinner scored 40 goals but had an up and down year, with 30 ls thru January 6nd he only had 10 total in the second half and needed two on the last game of the year to get there. Eichel led the team with a very solid 82 points, Reinhart finally broke through with a very good year, Dahlin more than held his own as an 18 year old, Ristolainen was very good on the back endoffensively but was a putrid minus 41. They were the third least penalized team in Hockey and did a great job on the P/K and were middle of the pack on the power play.

 

WHAT WENT WRONG The goalie tandem of Hutton.Ulmark both had goals against of over 3 which is unacceptable, neither is more than a backup for a team that is serious about winning. Mittlestat was awful for much of the year. Patrik Berglund jumped ship early in the year creating a strange situation, the other players who came over for O'Reilly, Sobotka and Tage Thompson were borderline awful. Pominville scored more goals in the first month of the season then he did the rest of the year. Sheary was mediocre at best, they were indifferent to 5 on 5 hockey, out of 17 players who played 60 games or more every single one was a negative in the plus/minus category. Nylander failed to capture a spot in the lineup after looking ordinary at Rochester. Overall the team seemed filled with veterans who were just short of average and kids who were not that interesting. They were among the very worst teams in Hockey 5 on 5.

 

FREE AGENTS Skinner in the big one he wants big bucks, is he the guy who scored 30 goals in the first half or the one who scored 10 in the second as the team fell apart? Pominville is almost certainly a goner, the team would like to have 4th line center Johann Larsson back but as a faceoff king and solid P/K guy he will command more than they want to pay. Moulson, Hunwick and scott Wilson are all almost certainly gone.  RFA's Reinhart and Ullmark will want paid especially Reinhart who is coming off a career year.

 

OFFSEASON QUESTION MARKS: First they need a coach, Todd McLellan is supposedly out, they are looking for a proven NHL bench boss. Losing Skinner would be a PR disaster as he captured fans hearts with his hot start,  he is worth more to the Sabres than anyone else. Reinhart (65 points) Eichel (85) and Skinner (40 goals 63 points) was a monster line, no other forward had more than 34 points so the entire middle six needs rebuilt. They need to decide if Nylander can play and if not move on. They have a skilled blueline with help coming up from below and Ristolainen likely will be shopped for a middle six scorer. They probably need to move on from either Hutton or Ullmark keeping one or the other as a decent backup and bring in a veteran 50 game a year starter.

 

 This truly was a case of two seasons, if they had simply maintained a .500 pace after their hot start they would have been in the hunt all year but they were the worst team in Hockey during Calendar year 2019. They have a ridiculously large group of middling veterans under contract and need to see it they can figure out somewhere to dispatch some of Beualieu, Bogo, Scandella, Sheary, Sobotka and Okposo and replace them with quality.

 

 The season began with a ton of promise and ended with a thud. Again. as usual.

Edited by yave1964

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Thanks for your team posting once again, @yave1964 .
As usual, lots of points to choose from in your write up.

I will just say this:
The team needs depth. Plain n simple.

They don't have to be world beaters and while they still search around for their true number one goalie, while they search for a well defined top six, and, I am suspecting, they STILL need a true number one defenseman.
Dhalin may be it, but he isn't old enough to have a Molson's out in public yet and Ristolainen, to me, is starting to look more like a very good 3D or 4D, but NOT a true #1 that can be exposed to the league's top lines, night in night out.

 

But during all this, what they need to try and build is some solid, if unspectacular lines, 1-4 for starters.
Everything else can then play off that.

Team identity? I think they identify more (or should anyways) as a tough defensive team who forces turnovers....but then HAS to take advantage of the opportunities created.
Until they find a true number one goalie whom they can feel comfortable leaving to 'fend for himself' on occasion, they have to guard their own zone and help out their netminder, and win low scoring games.

 

If they keep Skinner and get he and Eichel some more help, maybe they can transition into a more offensively oriented team.

But IMO, simple depth is key.
Maturity of many of their players is another issue, but only time can solve that one.

 

As you said though....they first need to find a coach, who, of course, should determine his team's playstyle.
Still much to look forward to for Sabres fans, but Buffalo management needs to be careful not to waste away TOO much of their best players' prime years trying to figure things out!

 

I am interested to see what kind of off season these guys have and what they choose to address...starting with their bench boss.

 

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Gee, maybe a REAL SABRES FAN  should chime in here if I may?  I agree with your take on the "what went wrong " for the most part.  The goalies are crap.  But Ullmark should be kept as he is a carbon copy of Jhonas Enroth and Marty Biron, very very good backup goalies as is he.  Hutton, should be released.  Not sure who they get?  Maybe since Bishop is going so well in Dallas, Leghtinen could be considered?  Just a name to toss in.  He is pretty good.  And might be primed for a big comeback?  There are others , but the coaching problem must be addressed first.  You all know I love Lindy Ruff and I would welcome him back in a minute.  And of course, I would love to have Miller back for a year or two.  I know its unlikely. 

They have ample talent on defense if they do not lose the current roster.  They need forwards. I am confident they will sign Skinner.  He likes playing with Eichel and I believe they are relieved Housley is gone.  I have to point the finger at Housley.  No way in hell would Lindy Ruff have lost a team like he did.  No way.  After they won ten in a row for some stupid reason he kept switching lines and he hd way too much faith in Tage Thomson, and he alienated the bets guy we got for O'Reilly.  Bergland.  And I am not buying the lame excuse.  I am blaming Housley for putting a guy who can score on penalty kills and then benching him.  Just stupid.  Lets wait to see who the next coach is, and see what Botterill does with the extra picks from the Blues and Sharks, and what happens with Skinner.  After that, we can know more.  Until then, we cannot

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@Hockey Junkie

 

Lehtonen retired at the end of last season, he was putrid for several years before that but there are going to be some good goalies out there, the problem is Hutton is signed for two more seasons so it is probably going to be the gong show of Ullmark/Hutton in net again. Ullmark, I like the comparison to Biron, he could be a long term mostly backup goalie so that is fair.

As for a few of your other points:

Skinner has not committed, one year in Buffalo he has no reason to be loyal, someone is going to pay him a lot of money, I give your boys a fifty percent chance of resigning him if they are willing to give him the eight years he wants

 Berglund has his own demons he is fighting which has nothing to do with Hockey, he has always just been a very good 4th liner, a decent third liner nothing more. His loss was no loss, I wish him well in dealing with his own issues.

 Tage Thompson cannot play more than a minor role. lots of holes. Agreed the picks are what the Sabres got for O'Reilly, the players aren't much at all.

 Coaching, I doubt it is Ruff, they do want a veteran coach from all that I have read with Quenneville and McLellan off the market Alain Vigneault who did a solid job both in Vancouver and with the Rangers is rumored to be the guy at this point which would likely be a solid pickup.

 

  Lots of work here but lots of skill and lots of draft picks to work with.

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30 minutes ago, yave1964 said:

@Hockey Junkie

 

Lehtonen retired at the end of last season, he was putrid for several years before that but there are going to be some good goalies out there, the problem is Hutton is signed for two more seasons so it is probably going to be the gong show of Ullmark/Hutton in net again. Ullmark, I like the comparison to Biron, he could be a long term mostly backup goalie so that is fair.

As for a few of your other points:

Skinner has not committed, one year in Buffalo he has no reason to be loyal, someone is going to pay him a lot of money, I give your boys a fifty percent chance of resigning him if they are willing to give him the eight years he wants

 Berglund has his own demons he is fighting which has nothing to do with Hockey, he has always just been a very good 4th liner, a decent third liner nothing more. His loss was no loss, I wish him well in dealing with his own issues.

 Tage Thompson cannot play more than a minor role. lots of holes. Agreed the picks are what the Sabres got for O'Reilly, the players aren't much at all.

 Coaching, I doubt it is Ruff, they do want a veteran coach from all that I have read with Quenneville and McLellan off the market Alain Vigneault who did a solid job both in Vancouver and with the Rangers is rumored to be the guy at this point which would likely be a solid pickup.

 

  Lots of work here but lots of skill and lots of draft picks to work with.

I was about to remind you that we do have some pretty good young talent and guys like Ristolainen, Dahlin, Eichel and Middlestadt are not chopped liver.  Luukenen won for Rochester today.  So he is playing in the AHL as did Miller and he could be Buffalo's goalie next year?

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13 hours ago, yave1964 said:

@Hockey Junkie

 

Lehtonen retired at the end of last season, he was putrid for several years before that but there are going to be some good goalies out there, the problem is Hutton is signed for two more seasons so it is probably going to be the gong show of Ullmark/Hutton in net again. Ullmark, I like the comparison to Biron, he could be a long term mostly backup goalie so that is fair.

As for a few of your other points:

Skinner has not committed, one year in Buffalo he has no reason to be loyal, someone is going to pay him a lot of money, I give your boys a fifty percent chance of resigning him if they are willing to give him the eight years he wants

 Berglund has his own demons he is fighting which has nothing to do with Hockey, he has always just been a very good 4th liner, a decent third liner nothing more. His loss was no loss, I wish him well in dealing with his own issues.

 Tage Thompson cannot play more than a minor role. lots of holes. Agreed the picks are what the Sabres got for O'Reilly, the players aren't much at all.

 Coaching, I doubt it is Ruff, they do want a veteran coach from all that I have read with Quenneville and McLellan off the market Alain Vigneault who did a solid job both in Vancouver and with the Rangers is rumored to be the guy at this point which would likely be a solid pickup.

 

  Lots of work here but lots of skill and lots of draft picks to work with.

Well Lehtonen was a bad example.  But there are guys available, or that can be made available in a similar situation.  How about Quick?  They have their new young goalie?  But he would likely cost too much.  There are others to consider without me digging through the rosters.  I even wonder if Lundquist is still in the Rangers plans?  There are some good goalies that will be available.  But if this kid from Finland works out?  Who knows.  Maybe he is our next guy? Luukinen or something like that.  I do not really care if I get name spellings right.  In hockey its too much work.  Too many Euros with crazy names. Its not like Smith and Jones.

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      @Hockey Junkie   Lehtonen retired at the end of last season, he was putrid for several years before that but there are going to be some good goalies out there, the problem is Hutton is signed for two more seasons so it is probably going to be the gong show of Ullmark/Hutton in net again. Ullmark, I like the comparison to Biron, he could be a long term mostly backup goalie so that is fair. As for a few of your other points: Skinner has not committed, one year in Buffalo he has
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      I was about to remind you that we do have some pretty good young talent and guys like Ristolainen, Dahlin, Eichel and Middlestadt are not chopped liver.  Luukenen won for Rochester today.  So he is playing in the AHL as did Miller and he could be Buffalo's goalie next year?
    • 1
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      Well Lehtonen was a bad example.  But there are guys available, or that can be made available in a similar situation.  How about Quick?  They have their new young goalie?  But he would likely cost too much.  There are others to consider without me digging through the rosters.  I even wonder if Lundquist is still in the Rangers plans?  There are some good goalies that will be available.  But if this kid from Finland works out?  Who knows.  Maybe he is our next guy? Luukinen or something like that
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