There was a time last season when some called the Buffalo Sabres a “wagon”. That wagon quickly lost its wheels and stalled out, as the Sabres once again finished near the bottom of the league.
The results? Changes, including yet another one behind the bench. Buffalo didn’t make headlines this summer, but they did make strong, calculated moves that will improve their roster.
Can Buffalo finally break into the playoff race? Can the Sabres actually push into the dance for the first time since 2011? They’re the third installment in this year’s Atlantic Division Report. (Parts one and two)
Head Coach Ralph Krueger: Yet another coaching change for the Sabres this season saw Krueger take the wheel. The former Edmonton bench boss impressed with his coaching work at the World Cup in 2016. He’s known as a strong motivator, and that will help a Sabres team in need of a new culture.
D Colin Miller: After a down season in Vegas, the Sabres acquired Miller for pennies on the dollar. A mobile, puck-moving defenseman who can run a powerplay, Miller is poised to play a top-four role with the Sabres this season. He’s a quality player that will improve a struggling defense.
F Jimmy Vesey: After missing out on him as a free agent out of Harvard, the Sabres finally got their man via trade on July 1st. Vesey hasn’t lived up to the hype, but he is a decent secondary scorer with chemistry with some of Buffalo’s stars.
F Marcus Johansson: Signed as a UFA after he helped the Boston Bruins reach the Stanley Cup Final, Johansson will be the ideal middle-six forward for Krueger. He brings speed, special teams ability and secondary scoring to a Buffalo team with minimal depth up front.
D Henri Jokiharju: Why Chicago moved this player I do not know. Jokiharju is a strong young defenseman that can move the puck and play up in the lineup. He’ll be a nice fit in Buffalo, where the Sabres can start him in a depth role.
F Jason Pominville: Still a free agent, the Sabres will miss his leadership in the room and depth scoring. That said, Vesey and Johansson should more than make up for his departure. I also wouldn’t rule out a return for Pominville during camp.
F Alex Nylander: Traded to Chicago, Nylander never quite lived up to the hype as a top ten draft choice. A change of scenery might help, but it certainly looked like Nylander was in tough to make the Sabres in 2019.
The Sabres have more talent than a season ago and will be better. Johansson and Vesey enhance their forward depth, while Miller and Jokiharju significantly improve their defense. The Sabres have the top-end talent to compete with teams like Boston and Toronto. Better depth should equal more wins and points.
The future is bright in Buffalo. The present will be better than it has been and the Sabres WILL be in the playoff chase. However, in the end, they won’t make the dance.
Final Point Prediction: 87