Robert – 83 points (Miss Playoffs)
Jimmy Vesey and Marcus Johansson will surely improve the team on offense, an area where they have struggled, ranking 31st (2.4 G/GP) in 2017-18 and 21st (2.7 G/GP) last year. However, it takes more than scoring to consistently win in the NHL. A team’s success ultimately depends on the performance of their goaltenders, and Carton Hutton and Linus Ullmark each had their share of struggles toward the end of last season. Ralph Krueger and the unique presence he brings, along with the new players Botterill brought in will help the Sabres improve this season, but it won’t be enough to make the playoffs.
Craig – 86 points (Miss Playoffs)
The last three seasons, the threshold for the playoffs has been 97 pts in the Eastern Conference. The Sabres would have to a 21-point jump in one year to make that leap and I just can’t see it given the number of additions the rest of the East made. I actually think Buffalo did a nice job overhauling their roster long term. Johansson is a great addition who will provide stability at center, Vesey is a fine top 9 forward, and the defense is young with a lot of talent in Rasmus Dahlin, Colin Miller, Henri Jokiharju, Jake McCabe, and Brandon Montour that’s able to grow together. For the Sabres playing meaningful games into the end of March would be progress given the last 5-7 years. The one way I see Buffalo making it is Olofsson developing into a 30-goal scorer and Dahlin having a 70-pt Erik Karlsson-type year. Not impossible, just unlikely.
Kevin – 85 points (Miss Playoffs)
They haven’t made enough improvements to the roster to make a jump into the playoffs. The defense is better with the additions of Miller and Jokiharju, but there’s still not enough offense to make a big difference. The goaltending remains mediocre unless Ullmark or Hutton have a big year. Krueger will have a positive impact but not enough to push Buffalo to the postseason. I’m envisioning something like a 36-33-13 record for the Sabres.
Brian – 95 points (Make playoffs)
A lot of this season’s outcome hinges on goaltending. Improvements have been made to both the forward and defense core. Miller will be a significant upgrade on the backend, and Jokiharju provides NHL level talent as a depth option if we’re looking at a balance of left and right-hand pairings. The forward group should see a nice improvement with the injection of Johansson and Vesey, along with the continued development of Tage Thompson and an almost guaranteed roster spot for a player like Victor Olofsson. The depth is there, and improvements on both offense and defense give hope for this upcoming season.
John – 92 points (Miss Playoffs)
After going 33-39-10 for 76 points last season, the Buffalo Sabres’ brass knew they had to make some changes. Goaltending was a big struggle in the latter half of last season with Buffalo finishing as the 9th worst in goals against with 271 (3.3/game). Although the Sabres will be rostering the same two NHL goalies, they did bring in a new goalie coach in Mike Bales who has been nicknamed “The Goalie Whisperer”. Bales was previously with the Carolina Hurricanes who finished with the 7th best goals against last year with 223 (2.7/game). Adding Bales along with a new head coach, Ralph Krueger, should allow the culture and system to develop for an improved season.