Key Offseason Losses: Tim Kennedy, Toni Lydman, Henrik Tallinder, Raffi Torres
Key Offseason Additions: Jordan Leopold, Shaone Morrisonn, Rob Niedermayer
Last Season Ranking: 3rd in East
The Buffalo Sabres carry a very skilled pair of centerman to anchor their top two lines in 2010-11. Leading the way is Derek Roy, the teams leading scorer from last season with 69 points. He will continue to be productive this season, and should post similar numbers to the past few seasons. Next in line is Tim Connolly, a highly skilled play maker. Unfortunately, Connolly hasn’t been healthy enough to play a full season in the NHL since 2002-03. Last season, however, Connolly made great strides and posted 65 points in 73 games, including a 16 game point streak (25 points) in December and January. Barring any serious injury, Connolly is capable of a 70-80 point campaign. He has great success on the power play and will see a lot of time there as well.
On either wing, the Sabres look good. Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek are potential point per game players, but have both failed to realize that potential in recent seasons. Their lack of production hasn’t hurt the team, however, as players such as Jochen Hecht and Drew Stafford add some secondary scoring. Look for the wingers to pick up their productivity this season as they come in stronger and more experienced to their role in Buffalo.
Further on down the line, you’ll see Buffalo continues with their depth players and secondary scoring. The addition of Rob Niedermayer will provide veteran leadership as well as a guy who can go out, skate hard, block shots and kill penalties. Mike Grier will see a similar role. He’s a big guy and should be able to throw his weight around a bit and create some energy when necessary.
Leading the way on defense will be the reigning rookie of the year, Tyler Myers. He had an exceptional rookie campaign, shutting down the opponents top players, as well as leading the defense in scoring with 11 goals and 37 assists. New to the team this year will be Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn. Leopold joins his fifth team in three seasons, and looks to finally have a home. Expect him to get settled into his new role quickly, and become a solid defenseman as he has been in the past. Shaone Morrison should fit in well with the Sabres too, and will prove to be a nice addition.
Ryan Miller was an absolute stud last year, in case anyone doesn’t remember. Besides leading Team USA to a silver medal in the 2010 Olympics, Miller set personal bests in both goals against average (2.22) and save percentage (.929) during the NHL campaign. His 41 wins was also a personal best. This season, he will be back between the pipes for the majority of Buffalo’s games, and seems to just now be approaching his prime as his numbers have continued to improve year after year. On the rare night when Miller is due for a rest, we’ll see Patrick Lalime take his place. Lalime will be a steady backup, but if Miller is out for any extended period of time, the Sabres could be in trouble.
While Buffalo is playing in a very competitive Northeast Division, they should still remain near the top of the pack if Miller is healthy. Low scoring wins will be the Sabres specialty again this season, unless the offense puts up the numbers that they are truly capable of. Expect the top forwards to put up roughly 70 points, with Tyler Myers only getting better on defense as well. Ultimately, Miller will be the star of the show, however, and as he goes, so do the Buffalo Sabres.