The Buffalo Sabres enter the new season with no talk of suffering in the summer by the teams management. Instead a new attitude of optimism and growth has been preached by management. Players have spoke on the new attitude within the locker room. Everyone feels they are being given a fresh start by the new regime and plan on taking advantage of that opportunity.
The Difference a Year Makes
At the beginning of last season the Sabres were being lead by the laid back attitudes of GM Darcy Regier and Head Coach Ron Rolston. The leadership within the locker room was in the hands of Thomas Vanek, Steve Ott, Christian Ehrhoff, and Ryan Miller. Fast forward a year, the organization is now lead by the
bulldog attitudes of GM Tim Murray and Head Coach Ted Nolan. The leadership duties in the locker room now belong to newbies Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, and Matt Moulson (kind of new).
Gionta and Gorges come from the Montreal Canadiens and bring an attitude of winning. This new attitude and belief in winning will be great for the young players in the lineup. Players like Girgensons, Ristolainen, and Reinhart will now have a belief in winning buzzing around the room. The doom and gloom attitude carried by veterans last season is now gone. Believing you can win is the first step in becoming a constant playoff contender.
Growth for the Future
A lot of the focus on this season will be the continued growth of the future of the organization. The Sabres arguably have the number one prospect pool in the NHL. With the big club; Girgensons, Ristolainen, Pysyk, Reinhart, and McCabe will be watched closely. The Sabres may not win many games, however if those players continue to show signs of being good to great NHL players, the season will be called a success even if the team finishes in the basement.
Down on the farm in Rochester the expectation is different. The AHL affiliate Rochester Americans are expected to win and be lead by top prospects Grigorenko and Armia. Secondary prospects like Samuels-Thomas and Carrier will also be expected to an impact with the Amerks. The main focus of course will be on former first round Mikhail Grigorenko. Grigo had a great preseason with the Sabres and in my opinion deserved a roster spot with the Sabres. However the team choose the option they thought was better for development. If the young Russian can continue to build on a strong camp, he’ll be with the Sabres again very soon.
The Contract Year
Two important players for the Sabres if they want to win this season are in the final season of their contracts. Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart are playing for
that next big contract this season and will be play a large role if the Sabres want to be a winning team in 2014-15. Sabres fans remember the last time Stafford was in a contract year. In the 2010-11 season Stafford had a career year, scoring 31 goals and 52 points in only 62 games. That season earned Stafford his current four year 16 million dollar contract. Ever since signing that deal Stafford has left a lot to be desired by Sabres fans. Stafford is looking to prove his worth this season
Stewart who like Stafford had a career year in his last contract year. After wearing out his welcome in Colorado and St. Louis, Stewart is looking to capitalize on a fresh start in Buffalo. The big winger is a favorite of coach Ted Nolan and he looked great in training camp. If Nolan pairs Stewart with another big power
forward in Marcus Foligno, both players could be in for a big year. Stewart and Stafford could both be used as trade bait at the deadline, however I believe the Sabres are high on Stewart
Eyes on the Prize
When all is said and done the main focus of the 2014-15 season will be for the Sabres to again finish at the bottom of the NHL and be in position for a lottery pick in the 2015 draft. The Sabres have gone this far down the road of bottoming out and building up the prospects. They need to see the plan through with two of the best prospects in years staring them in the face. Sabres fans will pay as much attention on Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel as they do on their own team. It’ll be interesting to see how fans react if the Sabres are winning more games than expected. It may be as surprising as it may sound to some; fans will be angry with a over achieving team. If the Sabres see the plan through and add a player like McDavid or Eichel to their already great prospect pool, the franchise could be set up for the next 10 years.
Sabres fans will have a lot to look forward to in this coming season. The team will be more competitive than last season for sure. The growing fear among some is will they be too good?