Are the Buffalo sports teams back on the map? It has been a long and tiresome road we have traveled as Sabres and Bills fans, but many signs are pointing to a light at the end of the tunnel. It has been quite some time since either team has been relevant. At the same time, it sure does sound like things are a changin’. Let’s first take a look at the hockey team. Can you remember a group of players in worse shape than the 2014 Sabres? From day one of last season, fans were openly cheering for the opposition in order to claim one of the two prized possessions in the 2015 draft. Well, mission accomplished and let’s hope we NEVER have to go through that again. The Sabres have a no nonsense GM in Tim Murray, a super star in waiting with Jack Eichel as well as some pretty powerful pieces to complement this young roster.
Although the Pegulas did not land the “big fish” in the coaching search, they got someone who has not only won a Cup, they got someone in Bylsma who has experience coaching stars like Crosby and is known to be a great teacher. Not only that, Buffalo got someone who genuinely wants to be here and that goes a long way with Buffalonians. Dan Bylsma is a young coach who is going to be able to relate to the youth on this team and keep egos in check in case those problems should surface (looking at you Evander). Although playoffs may not happen this year, there is no doubt in my mind that fans are going to look on that ice and finally see the future of this team. There will be no more shedding of contracts and bottoming out, you will see this team (hopefully) group into a Cup contender from the bottom up. These guys are going to bring some excitement to an arena that has recently resembled your local library more than “Hockey Heaven”.
If you are listening to the rumblings out there, Murray might be very high on Ryan O’Reilly from Colorado and he has also admitted that he does not mind ruffling a few feathers of fellow GMs when it comes to restricted free agents. Could trading Grigorenko, the #21 pick this year and someone like Zadorov land O’Reilly? Maybe he throws the offer sheet out there for Toffoli from LA or Saad from Chicago? Both of those teams have major cap issues and will have a tough time matching. With a little luck, it would not be too far fetched to see a lineup consisting of the group below. The big question mark on this roster right now is Cody Hodgson. Is he going to regain some resemblance of what he used to be or does the word buyout enter the picture? I think that all depends on what trades take place on draft day.
Sekera (FA) – Bogosian
Niemi or Ramo in net
Take a look at that team and compare it to the talent that was in front of your eyes this past year. If a few breaks go Buffalo’s way with trades and RFAs, we might even be talking about playoffs a lot sooner than later. Similar to what Jack Eichel said in the widely viewed Bud Light video….NHL, we’re comin’ for ya!