The Buffalo Sabres finished in last place the past two seasons but this trend should begin to change with the 2015-16 season. The Sabres have found their new head coach in Dan Bylsma and his experience should help move the team forward.
In order for Buffalo to qualify for the playoffs, the club will need to make a giant leap forward. However, at the very least a step out of the NHL’s basement is a reasonable expectation for the Buffalo Sabres during the upcoming season.
Bylsma: Kane, Ennis, Moulson, some of the pieces on defense, players coming, Sam Reinhart, 2nd overall, good people here.. #WelcomeDan
— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) May 28, 2015
Changes will continue this offseason as GM Tim Murray reshapes the roster of last season’s worst performing club. As a younger club, the Sabres will rely heavily on their veterans to contribute on offense and to help instill a winning culture. New players will be added to the roster during the offseason while veterans currently on the club will also help lead the charge.
Matt Moulson is one veteran forward that the Sabres will rely upon next season. He has proven over his career that he can score goals in bunches. However, his goal scoring production has fallen off a bit in recent years.
If the 31-year-old can find a way to score 30 or more goals per season like he did in the past, he will help jump start the Sabres’ offense which ranked dead last in the NHL last season. Here is a look at Matt Moulson’s journey to the NHL and the road leading him to become a member of the Buffalo Sabres.
[See Also: Bylsma’s Thoughts on Jack Eichel by Michael Straw]
Matt Moulson’s Humble Beginnings
Moulson is from the Toronto area and his hockey story is one of great character and determination. According to an article by Andrew LeRay, Moulson was told by his critics that he lacked the talent and speed needed to make it to the NHL. Moulson was also cut from various squads and faced some injuries along the way. While these obstacles may have caused some to stop pursuing their dreams, Moulson overcame them and used these experiences as motivation.
When he was 18-years old, Moulson began playing for the Guelph Dominators of the Mid-Western Junior Hockey League. According to Hockey-Reference.com, Moulson played 42 games for Guelph during the 2001-2002 season scoring 56 goals and 102 points. He then spent four seasons playing for Cornell University. Moulson scored more than a point per game as a member of the Big Red notching 71 goals and 138 points in 134 games during the course of these four seasons.
Moulson was drafted by the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 9th round of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. Then in 2006 he signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Kings. Moulson spent much of his time with the Kings organization playing for their minor league affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs of the AHL. He scored 74 goals and 160 points in 188 career AHL games.
The Kings gave Moulson his first taste of the NHL as he played 29 games for Los Angeles during parts of two seasons. Moulson only scored 6 goals and 10 points during his tenure in Los Angeles but his NHL fortunes would change on Long Island.
Moulson became an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009 and signed with the New York Islanders. The veteran spent parts of five seasons with the Islanders and scored more than 30 goals in three of these seasons.
Moulson Shuffles Off to Buffalo
As the Sabres began to rebuild, a big question that the club faced as it entered the 2013-2014 season was what the team would do with Thomas Vanek. Vanek provided the club with sturdy production on offense but he was a pending unrestricted free agent. Vanek was dealt to the New York Islanders for a big haul. Former GM Darcy Regier negotiated the deal that sent Vanek to the Islanders for Matt Moulson, a 1st and a 2nd round pick.
Moulson was also a pending unrestricted free agent when he arrived in Buffalo. The Sabres performed historically poorly during the 2013-2014 season yet Moulson carved out a decent year. According to TSN, the veteran scored 11 goals and 29 points in 44 games with the Sabres which is significant considering the fact that the Sabres only managed to score 157 goals that season.
As the season headed towards the trade deadline, the Sabres began moving out veterans in exchange for assets to fuel their rebuild. Moulson and Cody McCormick were sent to the Minnesota Wild in exchange for Torrey Mitchell and a pair of 2nd round picks. Moulson became an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014 and on that same day he returned to Buffalo.
The veteran, along with the players around him, saw his production fall off last season. Moulson played in 77 games for Buffalo during the 2014-2015 season in which he scored 13 goals and 41 points. Despite the club’s struggles and Moulson’s drop-off in production, he did manage to find chemistry with Tyler Ennis and Johan Larsson towards the end of the season.
my heart skips a beat every time the ennis, moulson, larsson line steps on the ice.
— Howard WGR (@hsimon62) April 10, 2015
Moulson has demonstrated his knack for scoring goals at the NHL level. During his career, nearly one-third of Moulson’s goals have been scored with the man advantage. Buffalo struggled with goal scoring in general for the past two seasons and these struggles were reflected in their poor power play numbers. Buffalo had the NHL’s worst power play at 13.4%.
As the Sabres restructure their roster for next season, new head coach Dan Bylsma will need to help Moulson find chemistry to return to form in his offensive production. Moulson has scored 30 or more goals three times in his career but he hasn’t reached this mark since the 2011-2012 season. A return to these levels would really help the Sabres.
Scoring more goals is an essential ingredient for the Sabres to take a step forward in the NHL standings. With a refurbished roster, Moulson has the potential for a much stronger season which will, in turn, help the club move in the right direction.
[See Also: What to Expect with Dan Bylsma by Joseph Vito DeLuca]
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW