2013-14 NHL Season Preview: Buffalo Sabres

Thomas Vanek Buffalo Sabres

The following is a guest post from Andy Boron who covers the Sabres for, and is managing editor of, DieByTheBlade.com. You can follow him on twitter @andyboron.


Last year, the Sabres and long-time GM Darcy Regier finally committed themselves to a total franchise rebuild that was a long time coming. They’ve been trading away expiring veteran contracts for two seasons now, and, thanks to some looks-good-so-far drafting, have amassed an impressive array of young, talented prospects at all positions.

The problem for this year is that few of those young, talented prospects are truly ready to step in to high-profile roles. With star winger Thomas Vanek expected to be traded at the deadline, the Sabres will be left with very few productive veteran forwards. Does anyone around the NHL consider Drew Stafford, Tyler Ennis, Steve Ott, or Ville Leino to be top-line forwards? No, but they’re all that’s left once Vanek inevitably leaves.

Of course, in a year or two the Sabres expect players like Cody Hodgson, Mikhail Grigorenko, Zemgus Girgensons, and Marcus Foligno to be able to fill those roles. But as far as this season goes, the Sabres are counting on a combination of hard work and an improvement from their youngsters in order to score goals.


The Sabres are loaded with young defensive talent, spearheaded by Mark Pysyk and 2013 draftee Rasmus Ristolainen. If Tyler Myers can get back to his Calder Trophy self, then Buffalo will have a very strong top four along with the incredibly underrated Christian Ehrhoff. However, if Myers continues to struggle, the prospects play with typical youthful inconsistency, and the aging Henrik Tallinder doesn’t have much left in the tank, then Buffalo’s blue line could be something of a mess for another year or two.


Ryan Miller is a known commodity at this point, but he might not be on the team for very long. His name has been swirling in trade rumors lately, but even if he’s not traded, there’s little chance he re-signs in Buffalo during the offseason. The team will hope he recaptures his Vezina magic in another Olympic year, but if he doesn’t, the Sabres will end up with a slightly above average goaltender who can rise to the occasion when necessary.

Behind Miller is the small but quick Jhonas Enroth, who many believe has earned a chance to prove himself as a starter despite his hot-and-cold play the past two years. The Sabres have a bevy of promising young tenders in the minors as well, so the pipeline is well stocked in anticipation of Miller leaving Buffalo.

Who’s In:

The Sabres didn’t sign many free agents this offseason; in fact, the only addition they made was bringing back former Buffalo defenseman Henrik Tallinder. Hank was Tyler Myers’ defensive partner when the big man won his Calder Trophy, and the Sabres are hoping that by reuniting the pair, they can turn the struggling Myers back in to the potential Norris candidate the Sabres thought he could be as a rookie.

Buffalo also traded for Carolina defenseman Jamie McBain at the draft this year. He’s probably not in the team’s long-term plan, but he slides in to a crowded blue line that will likely see some talented young defensemen like Brayden McNabb and Rasmus Ristolainen end up in the AHL.

Who’s out:

Andrej Sekera was shipped out to Carolina in the McBain trade, and the Sabres will miss his steadiness on the blue line and his puck-moving ability. Other than that, no significant names were lost this year.

Season Outlook:

Head coach Ron Rolston is best known as a teacher of young men, who demands his players work hard in all areas of the ice. All that Buffalo fans want is a team that looks like it cares as much as we do. If the Sabres can rise to that standard, they’ll slowly start to work their way back to respectability. If they continue to feature the slow starts and inconsistent play that highlighted Lindy Ruff’s last few seasons, however, they’ll spend another year in the basement.

I think the most likely outcome is another year of rebuilding, featuring the youngsters getting plenty of playing time and another veteran or two moved out for prospects or picks. I see the Sabres finishing somewhere around 10-12 in the East, but showing signs of improvement for the future.

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