Welcome to the October 2021 edition of my THW Buffalo Sabres Mailbag! As we approach the end of the preseason and the beginning of the 2021-22 regular season, final rosters around the NHL are starting to take shape, and the Sabres are no exception. But while much has changed for the Sabres since last season ended, one thing has not: Jack Eichel is still a part of the team, and trade talks have slowed to a standstill, with no end to the matter in sight. So, I’m not surprised why this mailbag was dominated by Eichel inquiries, but there were also some fun non sequiturs that I enjoyed answering.
Without further ado, let’s dive in to another Sabres mailbag, full of questions from Sabres Twitter that are begging to be answered before the start of the season (Note: Some questions have been edited for clarity and style).
Do the Sabres name a new captain sometime this season, and if so, who? – @Raggio9124
Both Sabres general manager (GM) Kevyn Adams and head coach Don Granato have said that there is no rush to name a new captain since Eichel had his captaincy stripped last month, and I assume that will remain the case through the end of the 2021-22 season. Personally, I think it would be good for the team if they skated without a captain for a full season, maybe even two – unless any one player sticks out as captain material with their play this season. Teams have been able to thrive without a player wearing the “C,” a recent example being the Vegas Golden Knights, who went a few seasons without one before Mark Stone was named the first captain in franchise history.
Some early candidates in my book to be named the eventual next captain are Dylan Cozens, Casey Mittelstadt, and Rasmus Dahlin. Cozens is probably the favorite among Sabres fans, since he always seems to say and do the right things, while Mittelstadt and Dahlin are the runner-ups.
Will BUF name a captain to replace Eichel this season, and if so, who? – @THW_Knopp
See above for my thoughts on this. To further that conversation, though, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Sabres captain has yet to suit up in a game with the team yet. While Cozens and company make for some great choices somewhere down the road, just look at some of the prospects the Sabres have coming up the pipeline, namely 2021 first-overall draft choice Owen Power. If any prospect has what it takes to lead a future Sabres team, he’s your guy.
Do you think the Sabres will have any 20 goal scorers this year? 30? – @johntlammers77
The Sabres have some of the lowest expectations of any NHL team in a long time heading into this season, and I don’t think any of the players are expected to have career years because of that. That being said, it’s highly unlikely that a Sabres player scores 30 goals this season, but 20 isn’t impossible.
Sam Reinhart led the Sabres in goals last season with 25, but he was traded away to the Florida Panthers over the summer. The next goals leader after him was Victor Olofsson, who scored 13 goals, followed by Mittelstadt (10), Tage Thompson (8), Jeff Skinner (7), and Rasmus Asplund (7). I’m going to go out on a limb and make a bold prediction here, and say that Mittelstadt and Olofsson reach the 20 goal threshold, and lead the Sabres in scoring this season. Outside of them and a couple others, not many players have much of a chance to rack up the points.
Which one member of the organization will be most responsible for the results the team sees this season?– @MrAlwaysWrite
I’m not sure if this is going “off the board” with my answer, but I believe Adams will be held most responsible for the results the Sabres see this season, and in the next few seasons to come, for that matter. With the moves he’s made this offseason alone, his fingerprints are now all over this team, and it’s his alone to rebuild. He’s already set the ball rolling in the direction he thinks this team needs to go, and more so than for anybody, the onus is on him to ensure he makes all the right decisions moving forward. A close second for me is Granato.
Outside of maybe Toronto/Montreal, do you think the Sabres will sell out a single game this season? – @dkokkinis12
The Sabres tied the NHL record for longest playoff drought last season when they missed the playoffs for the 10th straight time, and lost or traded most of their good players this offseason. For the sake of the argument, let’s say they’ve already lost Eichel, too. Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic left a large number of people in tough financial situations, while the NFL’s Buffalo Bills being Super Bowl contenders has given Buffalonians something better to spend their money on than Sabres tickets. Attendance this year was always going to be ugly.
In the two preseason games the Sabres have hosted, they sold 6,846 tickets (vs. the Pittsburgh Penguins) and 6,327 tickets (vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets). In the 19,070-seat arena, the actual attendance numbers appeared to be even less than that. Since fans who bought full-season ticket packages were charged for the three preseason home games, that means that the Sabres have sold 6,327 full-season ticket packages, at most. The season ticket sales used to be capped at 16,000, so it seems as though the team has lost nearly 10,000 season ticket holders.
It gets worse. Civilians are still not allowed to travel from Canada to the United States on land due to current COVID restrictions, and Canadians make up for 10 to 20 percent of the Sabres’ ticket base. Further, fans must be fully vaccinated against COVID to attend a game at KeyBank Center this season, and just 84.2 percent of New Yorkers currently have at least one dose of the vaccine, which means that almost 16 percent of the state’s population couldn’t attend the games, even if they wanted to.
So, to make a long answer short, I don’t think the Sabres are going to sell out a single game this season. Not even when the Montreal Canadiens and the Toronto Maple Leafs are in town.
If/when the Sabres adopt a new 3rd jersey, what design would you like to see them go with?– @HockeyWithDevin
Goat head jersey. It’s always the goat head for me (preferably the black one).
Just look at how beautiful it is. Plus, the Sabres made the 1999 Stanley Cup Final wearing these. So…
Will the Pegulas be patient enough to let Adams take the 3 to 5 years needed to clean up the train wreck or will they fire him in 2 years and start over? – @BlainPotvin_THW
The shelf life of Sabres GMs and coaches of yore has been an average of two years since the Pegulas bought the team in 2011, so I understand the warranted skepticism that Adams will be around for much longer. But, I think it’s also a little bit different this time. The Sabres are about to embark on their second full rebuild in a decade, and the Adams-Granato duo seems to be one that finally works well in conjunction with each other, so I think there’s some reason to be excited about that. If ownership separates themselves from the business of hockey and the on-ice product, I think that Adams can lead this team to a brighter future. I think it will take closer to five years than three, but it will happen eventually. The key part of this answer to remember is that it’s going to take ownership taking a step back from the hockey side of things to let the GM do his job. We’ll have to wait and see if that’s how it plays out.
Have any thoughts on the topics discussed in this Mailbag? Share it down below!
Brandon is a Buffalo Sabres Contributor for THW and Co-Host of THW’s ‘Sabres Scoop,’ who received his Master of Science in Sport Administration from Canisius College in Buffalo, NY, and founded his website, Seltytending, in 2017. He is an avid hockey writer and podcaster with prior work experience in the OJHL, NWHL, and NCAA. Twitter: @BSalts15