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Dahlin Day brings new hope

A long rebuild could finally be ended with tonight’s No. 1 pick

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July 1st, 2007. That was the last day for most Sabres fans the feeling of being able to win a Stanley Cup truly existed right up until Daniel Briere and Chris Drury left for other places. Since then, it has been 11 long years of frustration and agony for fans who have been beyond loyal during this period.

But today is a huge day that hopefully marks truly a new start for the team. The selection of Rasmus Dahlin could give the city much-needed hope that the Sabres can finally get back into the playoffs.

Dahlin is the type of player who the Sabres have had only two other times in their history in Gilbert Perreault and  Dominik Hasek. These are players who single-handedly transform your team and are talked about as the top players in the history of hockey. This isn’t a slight either to Jack Eichel, who is looking like the best center Buffalo has had since Pat Lafontaine and is absolutely a franchise cornerstone himself.

But the hype surrounding Dahlin is probably even higher than that of Eichel. He’s so far ahead as a defenseman that even Nicklas Lidstrom gave him praise in saying that Dahlin is better than he was at his age.

Two playoffs ago we all marveled at how Erik Karlsson carried the Ottawa Senators to within a goal of the Stanley Cup Final. This is the type of player the Sabres are grabbing to build into their growing arsenal of young talent.

If you look at Cup winners like the Los Angeles Kings, it was only after Drew Doughty was drafted to go with Anze Kopitar and Jonathan Quick that the team took the next step forward.

Franchise defenseman play nearly 30 minutes a game and can dictate so much of how a team plays and the flow they are in. One of the really cool things with Dahlin that his coaches have spoke of is if he is having a poor game he will ask his coach for three things to focus on to help him focus on fixing his play. Most players would instead chalk that up as a bad night at the office, Dahlin wants more.

Dahlin will have a learning curve like any rookie, but the question with him will be more of how long will it take until he is playing the game at his terms.

If there has been one major issue with the Sabres for years, it’s that you didn’t know what type of team you were watching and the team itself was identity-less.

Anyone who has went to a game over the last five years especially could tell you there were some really tough nights to watch the Sabres play. Adding Dahlin and Casey Mittlestadt to Eichel, Sam Reinhart, and Brendan Guhle should help to redefine the Sabres as a fast-skating group with some true scoring ability.

More importantly, Dahlin is the type of player who will help to fix the culture so the team puts a consistently hard effort night in and night out.

So tonight, the Sabres and their fans celebrate finally being able to turn the page. A new clock should start ticking and it’s one just wondering how long it will be until Dahlin is helping to carry the Sabres back to the playoffs and further. It finally might be okay again to dream a little about the Sabres and the Stanley Cup.

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