If there’s one thing I love, it’s a good sports montage. God knows I’ve spent too much time on YouTube watching them. When I was in high school, I discovered Buffalo Sabres tribute videos on YouTube.
They would be highlights mixed with play-by-play from Rick Jeanneret (One of the best voices you’ll ever hear), and music. I watched some of those videos so often, that I memorized the commentary and knew when it was coming up.
I’m starting to think I was a closet Buffalo Sabres fan back then.
Jack Eichel (C) – He’s the guy who was picked after Connor McDavid in 2015. At 20-years-old, Eichel has had eerily similar numbers across the board in his first two seasons.
2015-16: 81 GP; 24 Goals; 32 Assists; 21 Power Play Points
2016-17 : 61 GP; 24 Goals; 33 Assists; 24 Power Play Points
It’s impressive that Eichel was able to match his scoring output of his rookie season in 20 less games in his sophomore campaign. If he can avoid injuries this season, he could find himself at the top of the NHL scoring list.
Ryan O’Reilly (C) – O’Reilly has established himself as one of the best two-way forwards in the NHL. He fits the mold of a Patrice Bergeron. He’ll put up 50-60 points, win a high percentage of face-offs, kill penalties, and be matched up against the opposing team’s best player. At only 26 years of age, O’Reilly is one of the leaders of the team.
Sam Reinhart (RW/C) – As the 2nd overall pick in the 2014 draft, Reinhart is taking his time to develop. Reinhart ended last season on the right wing of Eichel and the two seemed to find some chemistry. That might be the best place for him – he’s been outmatched in the face-off circle, the team has depth at the centre position, and Eichel needs someone to feed off of.
Kyle Okposo (RW) – If Okposo can stay healthy, he can eclipse the 60-point plateau. He’ll likely slot in next to O’Reilly on the first or second line.
Evander Kane (LW) – It’s my belief that the only person holding Evander Kane back is Evander Kane. His off-ice issues have been well-documented and maybe they have affected his play. His career high in points is 57, set in 2011-12. Last season, he had 28 goals, but they seem hollow when you look at his -17 rating and 43 points overall.
Don’t get me wrong, 28 goals is 28 goals, but if he’s going to play 19 minutes a night on one of the top lines, he needs to do more.
Jason Pominville (RW) – He’s back! Yay, reunion tour.
Half of the Sabres defense core is comprised of players who were acquired from teams that saw them as expendable. They are: Nathan Beaulieu (Montreal), Zach Bogosian (Winnipeg), and Marco Scandella (Minnesota).
Nothing special. They are NHL-calibre defensemen. Meh.
Rasmus Ristolainen (22) – He is the bright light on the back end. He is a well-rounded player who stands at an imposing 6’4. He tallied 45 points last season – 25 of which came on the power play. He also played over 26 minutes a night, because who else do they really have?
Oh boy, this is ugly.
Robin Lehner (26) – He started 58 games last season. 2.68 GAA/.920 SV%. I can’t tell you how good he could be because the team in front of him wasn’t anything to write home about. Home for him is Sweden, by the way.
Chad Johnson (31) – He didn’t pan out in Calgary last season, so he came back to the team he was with the year before. He has never started more than 40 games in a season, so keep your hopes high and your expectations low.
Linus Ullmark (24) – He is 6’4 and from Sweden, just like Robin Lehner. Seems like he’s destined to play in the AHL this season.
1. Phil Housley is the new Head Coach in town. The Hall-of-Famer played his final 4 games with the Toronto Maple Leafs (1 regular season; 3 playoff). It felt like more than that at the time. Hmm.
2. Their arena is now called KeyBank Center. It used to be the First Niagara Center. I’ll aways think of it as HSBC Arena, though.
3. The Sabres haven’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs since 2007. They haven’t made the playoffs in the last 6 seasons.
4. They were one of the best teams coming out of the 2004-05 lockout. They were ahead of the curve and went with a young, speedy team. Maxim Afinogenov, anyone?
5. Brett Hull’s foot was in the crease in 1999 and the Sabres got screwed – that’s the story everyone tells. But they’re wrong. Hull had possession of the puck and then entered the crease. That was completely legal in 1999.
WHAT CHRIS THINKS (New Segment Alert!)
Buffalo seems to be a mix of talented but unlikable players, similar to the island of misfit toys in the 1964 Christmas classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.
LAST MINUTE OF PLAY
The Buffalo Sabres (33-37-12) finished last in the Atlantic Division and second last in the Eastern Conference last season. They can’t end up there again, right?
Well, we’ll see.
They had the best power play in the NHL last season (Who else is shocked?), but their penalty kill was 26th.
The Sabres were near the bottom of the league in goals scored last season (201) and are relying on young players to put the puck in the net. They desperately need someone to break away from the pack of secondary scorers and join Eichel as a top point producer. Sam Reinhart, here’s your opportunity.
ONE WILD PREDICTION
Evander Kane will be traded before the trade deadline.