The Buffalo Sabres will be looking to end their nine-year playoff drought in the upcoming 2020-21 NHL season after narrowly missing out in the disrupted campaign earlier this year. It is the current longest drought in the league.
With rumours the regular season could be cut to 56 and starting as early as next month, Ralph Krueger’s side may have as much chance as any of making it to the post-season. In order to that though some players need to step up.
Understandably, the Sabres are way back in terms of odds with the sportsbooks to win the 2021 Stanley Cup, way out at 66/1 currently with bet-nv.com. Only some outstanding performances and a good regular season are going to see those odds lower.
And here are three players who could be the difference between Buffalo making the playoffs and not:
It was 10 years ago that the Edmonton Oilers selected Taylor Hall with the #1 overall pick in the draft. An excellent rookie season saw the left-hander make the All-Star team, for which he has been named in four times since.
A two-time World Championships winner with Canada in 2015 and 2016, Taylor Hall is still only 29 years of age and should offer the Buffalo Sabres a lot in the upcoming season, after signing a one-year $8 million deal back in October.
Hall is set to start on the left wing, alongside Center Jack Eichel, who has scored 24+ goals in each of his five NHL seasons. This is an exciting prospect that could help the Sabres reach the playoffs for the first time since 2010-11.
After an excellent debut campaign with the Buffalo Sabres, points really dried up for Jeff Skinner last season, managing just 23 (14 goals, 9 assists) in 59 games. The forward had put up 63 points in 2018-19, including a career-high 40 goals in 82 games.
The acquisition of Taylor Hall could see Skinner play more on the second string, and the signing of former Carolina Hurricanes teammate Eric Staal could help get more productivity out of the 28-year-old.
Two of Skinner’s best seasons with the Hurricanes came alongside Staal, scoring 63 points in 2010-11 and 54 points in 2013-14 – both were 30+ goal campaigns.
Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton
There weren’t too many options in free agency to fix our goaltending woes, and instead, it looks like both Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton will both see action again in the New Year.
The duo combined 62-67-17 with a 2.99 goals-against average and .907 save percentage over the past two seasons.
Ullmark is only 27 years old and the signs are the Swede will play a lot more games than, Hutton, seven years his senior.
General Manager Kevyn Adams has previously said he feels the 163rd overall pick in the 2012 draft has the makeup to be a solid goaltender. If that’s the case then 2021 is the time to prove that.