If you have been following the blog at all or just me personally you know I am a huge Buffalo Sabres fan. With this being said, it has been a year since I have written an article about them, so it’s about time for the Sabres update.
At the 2016 draft, Tim Murray made another trade as the Sabres acquired a top four defenseman Dmitry Kulikov for Mark Pysyk. Another trade at the draft was a 3rd round pick for the negotiating rights of Jimmy Vesey. Jimmy Vesey was due to become a UFA on August 15th when Murray acquired him. This gave the Sabres a few weeks to talk with Vesey before that date. In the end, Vesey decided to become a UFA and eventually chose the New York Rangers as his new team.
The team continued to get better as they landed a top free agent in Kyle Okposo for a 7-year, $42 million contract. This figures out to be a six million dollar average annual value (per year cap hit). The Sabres added a few AHL players for Rochester in free agency, the biggest name being Justin Falk, who will fight to be the depth guy in Buffalo. Most of the Sabres offseason was trying to re-sign their current players.
So with all of these moves plus adding a top six winger and top four defenseman, what does this mean for the Sabres this upcoming season?
Here are my thoughts on the subject. The Sabres need to be playoff-bound this year for a few reasons:
First, the Atlantic division is completely up for grabs this year. Looking at the division, there isn’t one clear winner like years past. Boston and Montreal have questions defensively to figure out. The Florida Panthers have a lot of new faces, but will they all fit and work together right? Tampa might be the strongest team in the division after keeping Steven Stamkos.
Second, if the Sabres don’t make the playoffs, it could be the end of Dan Bylsma in Buffalo. Bylsma wasn’t Murray first choice to be coach of this team, and if the team doesn’t improve at the rate Murray wants them to, there could be big changes and Bylsma could be one of them.
Finally, do it for Marcus and Zemgus. Folgino and Girgensons had a few question asked of them about production last season. If the team doesn’t make the playoffs this season, these are two guys who could be playing their last season in Buffalo unless their production jumps up dramatically. You may call me crazy for this thought, but it really does hurt me knowing that my favorite player (Girgensons) may be traded at some point.
The Nashville Predators took down the San Jose Sharks easily by the score of 4-1 after scoring four straight unanswered goals. Nashville played a great all-around game and easily won in front of their home crowd. This loss was San Jose’s first road loss of the playoffs.
The Predators looked to use home ice advantage in their favor to get back in the series. They even had Tennessee Titans superstar quarterback Marcus Mariota appear before the game on the ice to get the crowd pumped up. Nashville made a major lineup change prior to Game 3. Preds center Mike Ribeiro was a healthy scratch after having only one point and a minus-three in nine playoff games this year. Nashville replaced Ribeiro with rookie Pontus Aberg who made his NHL debut tonight. Aberg recorded 40 points, 25 of them goals, in 73 games with their AHL affiliate Milwaukee Admirals.
Nashville applied major pressure early and just 1:11 into the game the pressure resulted in the game’s first penalty. Sharks winger Melker Karlsson took down Preds star Roman Josi with a hook and earned a two-minute trip to the sin bin. This sent the Predators to their awful man advantage. Nashville is a horrendous 2/31 on the PP in the playoffs. The penalty resulted in no big chances as they only managed 2 shots and San Jose killed it off.
The games first goal came with 6:47 remaining in the first period. This goal resulted from pure skill and speed. San Jose vet Patrick Marleau kicked the puck to himself at his own blue line but kicked it so far even I thought the play was going to result in nothing. I and probably every fan in the arena was wrong. Marleau was able to split Predators defender, Shea Weber, and Roman Josi and beat them to the puck in the Preds zone. Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne tried to come out and perform a diving poke check but completely missed the puck after Marleau pulled the puck back onto his stick. Marleau then had a wide open net and slammed the puck home to open up the Sharks tab. This goal was the first 1st-period goal of the series between these two teams.
With a little of five minutes left in the first period, Predators D-man Anthony Bitetto crossed check Sharks center Joe Thornton. After the penalty was called, a major scrum ensued which resulted in a roughing minor for Sharks defender Brent Burns and Predators defender Barret Jackman. These two calls canceled each other out and sent San Jose to their first PP of the game from the Bitetto cross-check call. The Preds were able to kill this PP of with poise. Then with 55 seconds left in the first, Preds winger Viktor Arvidsson gets the call for slashing Sharks defenseman Brendan Dillon sending San Jose to their second PP of the game and the first period ended with them on the man advantage.
The second period started with the Sharks on the power play. Nashville was once again up to the task and didn’t allow a shot and killed off the penalty. Then just 2:19 into the second period, San Jose youngster Joonas Donskoi received a four-minute high-sticking call after he caught Preds winger James Neal up high. Nashville went to their second manpower advantage of the game, looking for some major momentum and even a goal to tie the game.
That is exactly what Nashville did thanks to a very good power play. Predators Mattias Ekholm gathered the puck on the left-hand side, skated the puck across the blue line and drove right into the slot. Ekholm spotted Preds winger James Neal low on the right-hand side and fed him a nifty pass. Neal took the pass and HAMMERED a one-timer from almost the goal line and beat San Jose goalie Martin Jones high short side to tie the game up at 1-1 on the power play.
Nashville would then get another glorious chance to take the lead just 3:21 later. Predators defender Roman Josi corralled the puck high in the left-hand slot and ripped a wrister looking to beat Jones high glove side. Martin Jones had other plans and robbed Josi with a stellar glove save to keep the game knotted at 1 goal a piece.
San Jose went back on the penalty kill after Sharks winger Matt Nieto hooked Preds Ryan Johansen. Nashville went back to the power play for the third time looking to take the lead again. Sadly, their power play did not last long because Nashville winger Craig Smith caught Sharks winger Nick Spalling with a stick up high and we then played 4 on 4 hockey.
Just 44 seconds later of four aside hockey, Nashville would take the lead thanks to Shea Weber. Predators Ryan Johansen carried the puck in on the right side and tried dancing around the defenseman. Johansen got the puck poked right off his stick and went right to Shea Weber sitting in the slot. Weber unleashed a HOWITZER of a slap shot that beat Martin Jones high glove side and went bar down to give them a 2-1 lead. This goal was Weber’s 13th career playoff goal, tieing the franchise record for goals in the playoffs with David Legwand (no longer on the team).
San Jose went back on the power play with their fourth chance of the game. This time, Nashville defenseman Barret Jackman got called for hooking Sharks defender Brent Burns. The Sharks look to tie the game up on their power play which is usually very strong. San Jose managed to fire four shots on Pekka Rinne, but Rinne was very effective and shut down every opportunity. The second period would end with Nashville up 2-1, but San Jose still looking to tie the game.
Just like the second period started, the third period started with the Sharks back on the power play for 21 seconds. Nashville killed off that penalty once again, especially thanks to Pekka Rinne and blocked shots. The two teams would then trade a couple of decent scoring chances, but again, the duo of Rinne and Jones would turn them away.
Then with 13:51 left in the third period, Predators youngster Colton Sissons went on a mini breakaway looking to score. Sissons would then get knocked off the puck and taken down. He went flying into the post banging his knee right off the post. Sissons would then need help to get off the ice and went right into the locker room. Hope he can return quickly!
Then just 46 seconds later the Predators would strike again to go up 3-1 with 13 minutes remaining. Nashville winger Colin Wilson grabbed the puck on the goal line and slid a beautiful pass to pinching defender Ryan Ellis. He then threw a snap shot on net that was immediately saved by Jones’ left pad. The puck went off the boards and right to Wilson who was sitting in the same spot. Wilson corralled the loose puck on the goal line and shot it off the right post and in to give the Preds their first two-goal lead of the series. Wilson now has points in four straight games.
San Jose would then start applying some more pressure in the hope of getting back into the game. Although, once again Pekka Rinne was able to stone the Sharks on back to back chances to keep his team’s two-goal lead.
With 8:52 left in the contest we would get more 4 on 4 hockey. Nashville D-man Roman Josi collects a slashing call against Sharks center Joe Thornton and Joe Thornton getting two minutes for slashing Roman Josi right back. San Jose looked to take a page out of Nashville’s book and score a goal while playing 4 on 4 just like the Preds did earlier in the game, but this never happened.
Nashville winger Craig Smith would then be sent on a mini breakaway off a nice pass. San Jose D-man Brenden Dillon would slash Smith on his BA causing his shot to go wide. This sent the Preds to their fifth PP of the game looking to convert for another goal. Just 47 seconds into the power play, Mike Fisher would have another amazing chance to add to the lead. Fisher got the puck in the high slot and fired a laser that was calmly gloved down by Jones to still give his team a glimmer of hope.
Then 1:48 into the Predators fifth power play, Nashville would strike again. Preds winger Filip Forsberg, who was in the right-hand corner, passed the puck up to Preds D-man Roman Josi at the point. Josi passed the puck right back to Forsberg who grabbed the puck, curled back and drove right to the top of the right faceoff circle. Forsberg then rifled a NASTY wrist shot that, once again, beat Martin Jones high glove side and went bar down to increase the lead to 4-1. This would end up being the final score of the game as the Predators would hold on for a huge win.
Nashville’s goalie Pekka Rinne would end the game saving 24 out of 25 shots for a .963 SV%. While San Jose’s tendy Martin Jones would save 21 out of 25 shots for a measly .840 SV%.
Nashville would lead faceoffs (35-26), hits (37-28), and giveaways (6-5). San Jose would lead in shots (27-25) and penalty minutes (14-12). The teams would tie in blocked shots (19-19). The Sharks went a terrible 0/4 on the power play and the Predators went 2/5.
Nashville would earn a huge win and also a huge momentum builder with tonight’s win. Thier win would cut San Jose’s series lead to 2 games to 1. These two teams will meet again on Thursday night at 9 pm back here in Nashville, Tennesee. The game can be seen on CNBC, SN, or TVAS2.
Pekka Rinne and the Nashville Predators forced a Game 7 with a 3-1 victory over the Anaheim Ducks on Monday night at Bridgestone Arena. Rinne stopped 26 shots on 27 shots faced for a .963 SV% en route to the win, while Frederik Andersen made 23 saves on 25 shots against for a .920 SV% in the Anaheim loss.
Entering Monday night, Nashville had a 0-5 record in all-time Game 6 situations where they were facing elimination. Craig Smith returned to the lineup for the Predators, but not without a price in the eyes of the hockey gods, as Cody Bass left the game after the first period and did not return for the night with an injury.
After a scoreless first period, in which the Predators and the Ducks swapped power play opportunities only three minutes into the game, Nashville was leading 8-7 in shots on goal. The Preds were also leading in hits (12-11), giveaways (3-1), takeaways (3-2) and blocked shots (5-2), while Anaheim led in faceoff wins (10-7) after twenty minutes of play.
Mattias Ekholm scored the game’s first goal at 8:10 of the second period to give Nashville a 1-0 lead. The goal was Ekholm’s 2nd of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and was assisted by Calle Jarnkrok (1) and Ryan Ellis (2). Almost ten minutes later, James Neal put the Predators up by two with his 2nd goal of the series, assisted by Ryan Johansen (2) at 17:45 of the period.
Ekholm then served a minor penalty for holding Anaheim skater, Hampus Lindholm, at 19:17 of the 2nd. The Ducks forced their way into the front of the net during the ensuing power play opportunity and Ryan Kesler picked up a rebound before shoving it home for his 3rd goal of the postseason, thereby cutting Nashville’s lead in half on the man advantage. Kesler’s goal was assisted by Corey Perry (4) and Cam Fowler (2) at 19:46 of the 2nd period.
After forty minutes of play, the Predators led 2-1 on the scoreboard and 20-18 in shots on goal. Nashville also led in giveaways (3-2) and blocked shots (12-6), while the Ducks led in hits (23-20) and faceoff wins (19-17). Both teams had 4 takeaways after two frames and Anaheim was 1/2 on the power play, while Nashville was 0/1.
The third period saw a 9-6 shots on goal advantage in favor of Anaheim, but the Ducks last ditched effort was matched by the cool, calm and collected goaltending by Rinne.
With ten seconds left in regulation, Shea Weber fired the puck down the frozen river and into the empty net that had been vacated by Andersen with about 90 seconds to go in the period. Weber’s goal, his 2nd of the postseason, gave he Predators a 3-1 lead and was his 12th career playoff goal. As well, James Neal picked up an assist on the empty net goal.
Weber is now one goal shy of tying David Legwand’s franchise record of 13 career playoff goals.
Nashville finished the night leading in hits (30-25), giveaways (8-5) and blocked shots (21-11), while Anaheim finished the night leading in faceoff wins (28-26) and takeaways (5-4). With the win, the Predators tied the series at 3-3, thereby forcing a Game 7 on Wednesday night at 10:00 PM EST at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. It will be the first Game 7 in franchise history for the Predators and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and on Sportsnet and TVA Sports in Canada.
In rare NHL form, Round Two of the Stanley Cup Playoffs kicks off on Wednesday night before Round One will have even concluded, as the Tampa Bay Lightning square off with the New York Islanders at Amalie Arena.
With two goals in the second period, the Detroit Red Wings were able to beat the New York Islanders in Brooklyn 4-2 in yesterday’s Game of the Day.
After Second Star of the Game Brock Nelson hooked Dylan Larkin, Brad Richards fired a power play goal after an assist from Pavel Datsyuk (his 18th helper of the season). The Wings held the one-goal lead for only 5:36 though, as Nelson scored his 19th tally of the season off an assist from John Tavares to level the score, which held into the intermission.
Third Star Justin Abdelkader was responsible for Detroit‘s second goal of the night at the 13:29 mark, after assists from Henrik Zetterberg (his 24th helper of the season) and Larkin. 1:11 later, the Wings had their game-winner courtesy of First Star Danny DeKeyser. Detroit‘s 3-1 lead held into the second intermission.
The Islanders tried to stage a comeback with a score at the 15:12 mark of the third, compliments of Mikhail Grabovski (his seventh tally of the season), assisted by Matt Martin and Brian Strait, but they could not manage to level the score. The Wings‘ final goal of the evening was an empty netter from Luke Glendening, assisted by Darren Helm (his ninth helper of the season) and Kyle Quincey.
Petr Mrazek’s record improves to 18-9-4 after saving 27 of 29 (93.1%), while Jaroslav Halak’s falls to 12-9-4, saving 22 of 25 (88%).
The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 48-21-9, favoring the home squad by 38 points over the roadies. Detroit‘s win was the first for the road squad in six games for our series.
It’s a busy Tuesday in the greatest hockey league in the world! The action starts at 7 p.m. eastern with two games (Anaheim at Boston [TVAS] and New Jersey at Pittsburgh), followed half an hour later by four more (Chicago at Carolina [NBCSN/SN1], Columbus at Montréal [RDS], Buffalo at Ottawa [BELL TV/RDS2] and Toronto at Florida). Arizona at Winnipeg drops the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, followed by the co-nightcaps (Nashville at Vancouver and Colorado at San Jose [NBCSN/SN1]) at 10 p.m. eastern.
A third of tonight’s games are divisional rivalries (New Jersey at Pittsburgh, Buffalo at Ottawa and Toronto at Florida), and only one, Colorado at San Jose, is between current playoff contenders. Tonight also marks the first return of Bobby Farnham to Pittsburgh, David Legwand and Robin Lehner to Ottawa and Brad Boyes to Florida.
Given how long he spent in the Canadian capital and that he should be starting this evening, lets give the nod to Lehner and the Sabres.
Tonight marks Buffalo‘s third appearance in the Game of the Day series, a series in which they have yet to earn a point. Their most recent game under our observation was a 2-1 loss in Colorado on Wednesday. The Senators have been featured seven times before tonight, and own a 2-4-1 record in such games. Their most recent was a 4-1 loss in Anaheim on January 13.
Legwand and Lehner both joined the Sabres from the Senators this offseason in return for the New York Islanders‘ first-round pick (which Ottawa ultimately used to draft Colin White, who at the time, had yet to take the ice for Boston College). Together, they’ve played a total of 49 games for the Sabres, but the organization is optimistic for Lehner’s future.
So far this season, Lehner has started all four games he’s played, but he has yet to even get the Sabres to overtime (0-3-0 record), giving up eight goals in the process (.934 save percentage). During his five-season, 86-game career in Ottawa, he earned a 30-36-13 record with a .914 save percentage. He is expected to start tonight’s game for Buffalo against his old team.
The 19-26-4 Buffalo Sabres are currently last in the Atlantic Division, and second-to-last in the Eastern Conference and NHL, leading only Columbus, and only by a point at that. Although their position in the standings would not indicate it, their defense is actually on par with the league average (as measured by goals against), but their offense is absolutely horrendous and is the main reason the squad is considering tanking instead of making a playoff push. You can read a more in-depth analysis of their game on Wednesday’s post.
The Sabres are currently riding a three-game losing skid, with their most recent being a 6-3 loss in Madison Square Garden last night. A win tonight does have the chance to move Buffalo past Toronto in the standings, but at this point, Sabres fans might prefer to avoid winning as much as possible in hopes of a Jamie McGinn-Jack Eichel-Auston Matthews line.
The 23-20-6 Ottawa Senators are currently sitting in sixth-place in the Atlantic Division and 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points out of a playoff spot. To get them to that spot, they play one of the better offenses in the league, but the reason the Sens aren’t in the playoffs right now is due to their atrocious defense.
Even with Erik Karlsson’s team-leading 136 shots, the Sens have only fired 1382 shots this season, of which a solid 9.6% have found the back of the net for 137 goals (led by Mike Hoffman’s 22 tallies), sixth-most in the league. Interestingly, those numbers have not relied on the special teams, as Ottawa has only connected on 18.24% (technically below league average) for 27 power play goals, led by Hoffman’s six. They’ve also only given up two short-handed goals.
The defense is entirely to blame for Ottawa being out of the playoffs right now. Even with Karlsson’s team-leading 99 blocks, Ottawa has allowed a whopping 1623 shots to reach 20-14-4 Craig Anderson and co., of which they’ve collectively saved 91.4% for 152 goals against, second-most in the league. Part of that defense is the penalty kill, which has only killed 75.63% of opposing power plays for 39 extra-man goals against. The only saving grace of the penalty kill has been the 10 (yes, 10) shorties to their credit, led by Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s five.
Just like Buffalo, Ottawa‘s most recent game was against the Rangers, but the Sens won their game at home on Sunday with a three-game shutout. A win this evening has the potential to move Ottawa into the “First Team Out” position in the Eastern Conference, but they will need Montréal and Pittsburgh to both lose for that to happen.
Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Buffalo‘s Evander Kane (147 shots and 107 hits [both lead the team]), Ryan O’Reilly (40 points, of which 17 are goals, with 10 being at even-strength and seven being on the power play [all lead the team]) and Sam Reinhart (three game-winning goals [leads the team]) & Ottawa‘s Anderson (20 wins [eighth-most in the league] and three shutouts [tied for ninth-most in the league]), Hoffman (22 goals [tied for eighth-most in the league]) and Karlsson (41 assists [second-most in the league] and 51 points [fourth-most in the league]).
I’m picking Ottawa to win this one, mostly because they won’t be as worried about their defense doing their best impression of Swiss cheese since Buffalo‘s offense usually can’t hit the broad side of a barn. Lehner’s record should fall to 0-4-0.
My look at what retired numbers around the league may look like in the future continues. While there’s only a finite set of numbers to utilize on the back of a jersey, many teams choose to retire (or honor) some numbers based on extraordinary circumstances, dedication to the organization, or legendary status.
Many thoughts went through my head in each and every consideration. Feel free to agree or disagree- I want to know what you, the fans, consider worthy when evaluating a player, their career, and whether or not their number should be retired by a franchise. I am interested in seeing what you have to say, assuming you are actually a fan of the team and/or player that you argue for or against. Drop us a line in the comments or tweet to @DtFrozenRiver using #DTFRNumbersGame.
For each team, I thought of former and current players that should have their numbers retired now or once they hang up the skates.
Current Retired Numbers- None
Recommended Numbers to Retire
11 David Legwand
When Legwand retires he’ll likely be the first to have his number retired in franchise history for the Nashville Predators. It’s fitting that he was their first successfully developed player- and longtime face of the franchise- so it will truly be something special for all to enjoy (fans, front office, and former teammates alike).
6 Shea Weber
When Weber retires, Nashville will have lost one of their best defenseman ever. Other than that, he’s Shea Weber and he’s spent his entire career with Nashville, thus far (aside from that offer sheet he signed with Philadelphia, but was ultimately matched by the Predators). He’s a shoe in for his number to be raised to the rafters of the Bridgestone Arena.
35 Pekka Rinne
And so is Rinne. He’s one of maybe five or six elite goaltenders in the world. He’ll likely be a Predator for life (and so will his number when it’s enshrined above the ice).
In the final edition of Colby’s Corner for the 2014-2015 season- and unofficial first edition of Colby’s Corner for the 2015-2016 season- Colby Kephart takes a look into the future of the Buffalo Sabres based on their offseason moves. Don’t fret, Colby’s Corner will return next season on an even more regular basis!
#EmbraceTheTank –> #2016StanleyCupPlayoffs?
By: Colby Kephart
I have been holding back on writing about the rumor that the Sabres might be playoff-bound next year. I may not have that answer, but I do know that this might be one of the most controlled rebuilds I have ever seen.
Sabres fans were excited going into this year’s draft, knowing that they would almost definitely be drafting Jack Eichel. However, the day turned out even better as Sabres general manager, Tim Murray, the mastermind that he is, pulled off his first trade on draft day- acquiring goaltender, Robin Lehner, and center, David Legwand, from the Ottawa Senators in exchange for the 21st overall pick in the draft.
Robin Lehner is 6’4”, 23 years old and has experience in the NHL, having started in 86 games as the backup for the Senators for nearly 3 seasons. Lehner has a career save percentage of .914. With Lehner only being 23 years old and having a chance as the Sabres’ number 1 goalie, the big Swede has an opportunity to continue to improve, and for Sabres fans’ sake, he will become their new franchise goalie.
Also part of the deal was David Legwand, a veteran center at 34 years old, who according to Tim Murray, was “part of the deal, a take it or leave it situation”. Most people write him off and do not think he will have an impact on the team. As for me, I believe that his impact will be big off the ice.
He has more than a thousand games in the NHL under his belt. With young centers like Zemgus Girgensons, Sam Reinhart, Eichel, and Johan Larsson, Legwand will be able to give little tips and tricks, as well as show guys like Reinhart and Eichel that they don’t have to be center stage to be successful. Legwand was in Nashville for years racking up points, but still the average fan wouldn’t even know his name.
So at this point, the Sabres have their goalie, and I finally was able to breathe knowing Buffalo’s future. Then the mastermind, Tim Murray, struck again with the man everyone in the league wanted: Mr. Ryan O’Reilly. Murray traded defenseman Nikita Zadorov and forwards Mikhail Grigorenko and J.T. Compher, as well as the No. 31 pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft to the Colorado Avalanche for Ryan O’Reilly and Jamie McGinn.
O’Reilly, a 24 year old center, is a high-caliber player who might turn out to be the Sabres’ first truly number one center in years, dating back to the days of Daniel Briere and Chris Drury. O’Reilly comes with a year remaining on his $6 million AAV contract.
However, Tim Murray didn’t waste much time on locking him up longterm, giving O’Reilly a 7 year, $7.5 million AAV contract extension. Critics believe he was overpaid, as he received a front loaded contract, noting that when the contract kicks in beginning in the 2016-2017 season, O’Reilly will receive 11 million dollars (without a bonus).
Also included in the deal was 3rd/4th liner Jamie McGinn, a power forward with a scoring touch and is only 26 years old. In the 2013-2014 season, McGinn had a great total of 38 points (19 goals and 19 assists). He can provide some offense to 3rd or 4th lines, and could also be played with Marcus Folgino, as they have a similar style of play.
Or he could be put on the 4th line and hold his own with the big guys of the league and become a spark plug for the Sabres’ offense in games where they start off slow.
Finally, free agency opened up with the hopes of Sabres fans centered on finding a defenseman and, more importantly, a defenseman with a left-handed shot. Looking at big names like Johnny Oduya and Paul Martin (both of whom shoot left), the bar was set high and fans might have felt let down when the only moves made on July 1st were the signings of forward Jason Akeson and defenseman Matt Donovan, to one-year deals, while Martin signed a 4-year contract with the San Jose Sharks.
Both players are depth players, but Donovan has a chance to bust into the D pairs. He has some NHL games under his belt, but I, like the rest of all the Buffalo fans, was still waiting for a bigger name to help solidify the defense. The 3rd of July saw the Sabres sign 27-year-old Bobby Sanguinetti to a one year deal, who will more than likely be playing with the Rochester Americans in the AHL.
On our nation’s birthday, the 4th of July, the Sabres announced the signings of forward Cal O’Reilly (older brother of Ryan O’Reilly) to a two year deal. This adds another depth player to the Sabres and similar to Akeson, he will spend time in the AHL.
Buffalo signed another defenseman with a lot of NHL experience, and mileage around the league, Carlo Colaiacovo. Colaiacovo spent last year with the Flyers and played 33 games, amassing 8 points during that period.
The 32-year-old signed a 1-year deal worth $900,000. Colaiacovo is a left-handed shot, and with the experience that he has, will make the team on the Sabres 3rd defensive pair.
I envision Buffalo’s first D-pair will be Zach Bogosian and Josh Gorges, followed by Rasmus Ristolainen and Mike Weber, with the 3rd D-pair of Mark Pysyk, if he re-signs, (he’s a current RFA with a qualifying offer having already been tendered by the Sabres) and Colaiacovo. I would imagine other depth defensemen would be Donovan and Jake McCabe, which would be perfect with the injury issues the Sabres usually face during the season.
Obviously, all of this could change since as of July 7th Cody Franson and Johnny Oduya are both still unsigned, left-handed shot, defensemen. If either are signed by the Sabres, they would walk into their defensive plans and into the fans’ open arms. Yet, both want long-term deals, and in this off-season, Murray has only been handing out one-year deals to players.
Other defenseman that could be targets would be Matt Irwin, Tim Gleason, David Schlemko and Ryan Wilson, all left-handed shots ages 27-31 and with cap hits around $1m- $2.2m. All of them also have experience within the NHL and could be a replacement if Pysyk doesn’t sign with the Sabres.
Now to the person that’s been all over Buffalo’s media, 2015 2nd overall pick: Jack Eichel. On July 1st, the Buffalo Sabres signed Eichel, or ‘the future’, as Sabres fans will eventually start calling him, solidifying himself onto the team. My expectation would be that Eichel slides into the second line center with a chance to play on the first line if he shines and has chemistry with Evander Kane or Tyler Ennis.
Speaking of 2nd overall picks, Sam Reinhart (taken 2nd overall in 2014), after having an amazing World Junior Championship tournament- leading the tournament in points- has a legitimate chance at making this year’s roster, according to some. But I am not one of those people.
I believe he will get all of the preseason to prove something, and depending on how he performs in the AHL with the Amerks, he will have a chance about midway through the season to make a run at truly breaking into the lineup.
Obviously, he will be one of the first choices to be called up should the team run into injury problems, like last season.
As for all the talk about the playoffs, here are my thoughts: I feel like the Sabres are one Top-4 defenseman away- and if everyone plays as expected, the Sabres will be looking at a wildcard spot or will be just out of the playoffs. The major issue is that nobody knows exactly how well Eichel will perform alongside Evander Kane; let alone how Kane will play in a new location. Everyone should be happy if Eichel puts up 15 goals and 20 or more assists in his first season. Another player to watch will be Girgensons. If he puts up a 20-goal season, then the Sabres will be set and fans should be eyeing a playoff run and a bright future.
As for the thinking surrounding a deep playoff run, I don’t think so. They will be matched up against a high seed, and fans should hope for a deep series to stand a chance. I understand this is a lot to think about, seeing how development camps just began. But this is for the Sabres fans who are unsure about next season and the other fans who will be caught off-guard by the Sabres next season.
I will end my prediction for next season with this; I believe the Sabres will be in an end-of-the-season battle for points, and we will either miss the playoffs by 2 or 3 points, or will steal a wildcard spot in the Eastern Conference.