The Sabres have a lot of excellent players, no superstars really, but some really solid players. Derek Roy had a great year last year and he'll have to repeat that - or better it. Same applies to Vanek, who despite having a slow start to last season, tore it up down the stretch. Gone is the controversy over his 7 times 7 contract, this is the new NHL, everyone's overpaid. So now he can concentrate on scoring goals. And he will. So will Jason Pominville, one of the bigger surprises in the Eastern Conference last year. 'Pommer' put up career highs in all categories, including a stellar 27 goals and finished a point behind Derek Roy for the team lead. Mighty impressive.
After that, there are some question marks. Hecht is a very capable hockey player - as is his potential 2nd line center Tim Connolly. But if Connolly isn't injury free this year, it's gonna stretch the depth of the Sabres immensely. Other bright spots are the youngsters Stafford, Kaleta and the tiny but effective 5'5" Nathan Gerbe (he's so little I want to pack him in an overnight bag). Also, Andrej Sekera is an excellent young defender who could pack more of an impact than people outside of Buffalo think.
Buffalo's defense is one that I can't understand though. At times Tallinder and Lydman are really effective, at times, they are taken off and replaced by Sekera and other young defender Mike Weber. If the Sabres are going anywhere, then Tallinder and Lydman are gonna have to get in tune with each other again - fast.
The addition of Craig Rivet was an excellent move. Here's a guy that plays tough and puts up points in the mid-30s. Very, very nice addition, but the D still lacks.
Ryan Miller is a very good goaltender, but Ruff can't play him in 50 consecutive games (it was closer to 35, but I know it was a lot) again. He's too small and he's not Nabokov or Brodeur. So Patrick Lalime was brought in. Quite capable of taking care of the net while Miller gets some rest, this is a decent tandem.
Still, put it all together and it'll take some luck for the Sabres to be in the 8.
Team Grade: C+
Prediction: 9th in the East.