The Sabres have greatly improved their roster from last season already. With help from Terry Pegula, the Sabres have possibly improved their team more than any other team, in the NHL, since the beginning of this off-season.
With all the hope and promise that Pegula brought since taking over the team, it appears he is living up to it. Pegula has showed he is not afraid to spend money and help the Sabres not only down the road, but now.
Here are three reasons why the Sabres have a very solid chance at bringing Lord Stanley’s Cup to Buffalo this season.
#1 Ryan Miller – Not much has to be said about Miller, who has already won a Vezina, but this could be his best season to come. The Sabres have not given Miller much help in the past, evident by the Sabres ranking among the top in most shots allowed per game.
Miller has been left out to dry on many occasions but has still stood tall and has single-handedly won games for the Sabres. Now, with added help on the defense, arguably the best looking six defenseman the Sabres have put on the ice in a long time, will only benefit Miller. Look for Miller to put together a Vezina-like season between the pipes this year for the Sabres.
#2 Better defense – The reason why Miller and the Sabres will have a better year this year is the added pieces on the blue line this offseason. With the additions of Robyn Regehr and Christian Ehrhoff, look for the defense to be much more solidified.
With Ehrhoff and Regehr already joining Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold, Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera, Shaone Morrison and Marc-Andre Gragnani, the NHL should watch out. The Sabres wanted to tighten up the defensive end, which looked sloppy and inexperienced at times. These two issues were shown during the Sabres playoff series against the Flyers.
The Sabres have one of the deepest defensive pairings in the league. It will be interesting to see what the Sabres do with Sekera whether they decide to move him or keep the young and promising puck-moving defenseman, who is a Restricted Free Agent. The Sabres re-signed Mike Weber, who was the most physical defender on this team last season.
Marc-Andre Gragnani proved he can be in the starting lineup for the Sabres with his performance in the playoffs, against the Flyers. Gragnani was one of the best defenseman in the postseason for the Sabres as he lead the team with seven points. The Sabres are looking for Regehr to face the opposing teams top forward lines and shut them down as he did in the Western Conference with Calgary.
Ehrhoff was often considered Vancouver’s best defenseman last year and helped them reach the Stanley Cup Finals. Regehr and Ehrhoff will most certainly help the progress of stellar young defenseman in Tyler Myers. Myers had a bit of a sophomore slump last season but don’t look for that to happen in his third year in the NHL. Myers will be helped and mentored more now by the great moves that brought in Regehr and Ehrhoff.
#3 Improved Scoring – With the addition of Ville Leino the Sabres have added the top six forward that they had been looking for. Leino constantly beat up on the Sabres when he was with the Flyers and he had a breakout season last year. The Sabres feel that by giving him a bigger role on their team, he can have an even better season.
Last year Leino had 53 points with the Flyers. Leino also had 26 points in 30 games the last two seasons in Philadelphia in the playoffs, including three game winners. Leino is expected to be moved to center and possibly pivot the Sabres second line.
Derek Roy was having a stellar season with 35 points in 35 games in the regular season before tearing his quad tendon. Having Roy healthy should give the Sabres an added boost they were missing for most of last year. It has yet to be seen what the Sabres will do with Ales Kotalik, who they acquired with Robyn Regehr.
Kotalik was the Sabres shootout expert and has a great shot for the power play but has had disappointing seasons since he left the Sabres. With Lindy Ruff coaching Kotalik again, we will see if he can bring out the Kotalik of old or if he will be sent to Rochester to hide his contract.
The Sabres made a huge splash to start out this off season and they are not done making moves. The best part about these off season moves that the Sabres made is they have been smart with their money, which they have failed to do in the past.
Pegula has made the Sabres a contender to make a deep run into the playoffs and win the Stanley Cup. Look for the Sabres to be battling, not to just barely make it into the playoffs like last year, but to win the Northeast Division.