With training camp set to wrap up and the regular season starting Thursday, October 4th, Sabres fans are feeling pretty excited for the possibilities of the new season. GM Jason Botterill did an amazing job this off-season revamping the roster, removing much of the dead weight it contained last year, and bringing in new, hungry young players to create more competition for roster spots. When the list of departures and additions is put side by side, the difference in talent and ability is striking. Guys like Ryan O’Reilly, Victor Antipin, Jordan Nolan, Robin Lehner, Chad Johnson, and Benoit Puliot were traded or let go and new talent was brought in through the draft and trades. New faces like Jeff Skinner, Connor Sheary, Rasmus Dahlin, Tage Thompson, Vladimir Subotka, and Patrick Berglund will join an exciting group that includes Jack Eichel, a re-signed Sam Reinhart, Casey Mittelstadt, Alex Nylander, Brendan Guhle, a healthy Kyle Okposo, Rasmus Asplund, and exciting Victor Olofsson. This new team is sure to put up points and the real thrill should be seeing Skinner, Eichel, Reinhart, Okposo and Dahlin on the power play.
One of the biggest problems with the team last year was the complete lack of defense. The Sabres defensive unit was just awful last year and apart from Rasmus Ristolainen, who was exposed while having to play over 24 minutes per game and Jake McCabe, the unit has been completely revamped. Zach Bogosian says he is finally healthy and while it remains to be seen if he will be able to play at 100% for the whole season, guys like Brendan Guhle, Will Borgen and Matt Hunwick look to make a solid impact on the D line.
Another big problem last year was the goaltending. It didn’t help at all that Robin Lehner was basically hopped up on booze and painkillers for the whole season. He wrote an article in the Athletic in which he detailed his battle with addiction and his suicidal state. While this was saddening and hard to read, and I did feel bad for the trouble Lehner was going through at that time, I also felt bad for the Sabres who basically had a pasta colander in net. On the whole of it though, I guess it wasn’t that bad that we sucked so much because we were able to win the draft lottery and draft Rasmus Dahlin, the generational talent that we need to bring us back to a competitive level and hopefully to the playoffs. I am not saying that we will make the playoffs this season, but with the talent level we now have, I will not be surprised if we are in the playoff race at the end of the season. We probably need another year or two for our youngsters to get more experience, and for a guy like Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen to emerge as the number 1 goaltender. This season Carter Hutton, who was signed from St. Louis, will be the starter and Linus Ullmark will back him up.
This goaltending combination should be much more solid than Lehner and Johnson were last year and along with the revamped defense and upgraded scoring lines, I have high expectations for the Sabres in terms of their development and return to prominence. I don’t see us making the playoffs this year just because we are still so young, but if we get a full healthy year from Magic Jack, Mittelstud, Super Skinner and Dahlin the Magnificent, we are going to see some high flying, super exciting puck here in Buffalo this season and I can’t wait. Go Sabres!
Also, Go Bills! Josh Allen is amazing.