Join TSN in a 30 teams in 30 days tour of the NHL in preparation for the upcoming season. Teams will be unveiled in reverse order of the pre-season TSN.ca Power Rankings, and the Buffalo Sabres are up next. Get the lowdown on their off-season and the issues they face this season. Use the Your Call feature to give us your take on the Sabres!
2009-10: 48-27-7 (3rd in East, Eliminated in conference QF by Bruins)
General Manager: Darcy Regier (13th Season)
Head Coach: Lindy Ruff (13th Season)
What they did in the off-season:
The good news for Sabres fans is that for the first time in seemingly a long time, the team that a star player headed to greener pastures in free agency and the Sabres were left holding the bag with no compensation. The bad news is that there were no significant free agents arriving in Buffalo to bolster an offense that struggled at times last season. While veterans Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman did shuffle out of Buffalo, they were replaced by the equally able tandem of Jordan Leopold and Shaonne Morrisonn. The team also bid adieu to Raffi Torres and strangely enough Tim Kennedy after a decent season, while bringing Rob Niedermayer into the fold. The Sabres also re-signed backup ‘tender Patrick Lalime, shift disturber Patrick Kaleta and Matt Ellis.
Biggest issue facing the team:
The Sabres rode the strong play of goaltender Ryan Miller all the way to a Northeast Division crown last season. Unfortunately as good as Miller was last year he can't do the one thing that the Sabres need desperately to take that next step, to score goals in bunches. While Buffalo was able to get solid offensive production up and down their lineup, they will be looking for a lot more than the 28-goal output provided by Thomas Vanek last season. The Sabres are paying him more than $6 million a season over the next four years and would like to see a considerably greater return on their investment.
The same could be said for fellow first liners Jason Pominville and Derek Roy who both saw their production levels slip for the second straight season. If the Sabres top trio can rediscover their scoring touch, then Buffalo could very well challenge for the Eastern Conference title.
Player to watch:
It had to be great relief to Sabres management to see Tim Connolly suit up for 73 relatively injury free games last season while setting a career high with 65 points. That is the most contests that the Syracuse, New York native has played in since the 2002-03 season. The 29-year old Connolly defines the term "injury prone" as concussions have derailed what appeared to be an incredibly promising career, causing him to miss almost two full seasons. When he is healthy there are few players in the league that can rival Connolly's stick handling ability. A magician with the puck, Connolly will be counted on to provide some secondary scoring for Buffalo this season. If he is able to remain healthy he should put up career numbers at just the right time as he is slated to become an unrestricted free agent at season's end.