Get in your time machine and go back 6 months to September, 2009.
The Buffalo Sabres have missed the playoffs for 2 consecutive seasons. Management has added veteran role players; Mike Grier and Steve Montador. The team parted ways with Jaroslav Spacek, Ales Kotalik, Dominic Moore, Andrew Peters, and Max Afinogenov. Teppo Numminen also retired in the off-season. In my opinion, Spacek is the biggest loss. The Sabres defensive corps has struggled the past 2 seasons and just lost its top man. Don’t try and tell me that Steve Montador (at a salary of $500,000) is Spacek’s replacement. I also fear that with Peters gone, teams will take advantage of our small forwards without fear of repercussions from a true brawler. (But hey, the Red Wings are doing ok without fighting…Oh wait, they just got Brad May)
So the outlook isn’t great.
My season prediction: 10th place or worse. No notable player additions, while other teams have gone shopping & stocked up. At this point, I will be ecstatic if we manage to sneak into the playoffs.
Notice I did not mention Tyler Myers. In September we all thought he’d be back in juniors or in Portland. You are full of crap if you say you thought different.
So then the season starts:
1) Tyler Myers – Holy Cow, this guy is good. Takes about a month before he is on the #1 pairing with Tallinder. Tallinder owes the 19 year old for revitalizing his career.
2) Ryan Miller is ON (and his backup, Lalime, is doing ok)
3) The 3rd & 4th lines are scoring. Grier(9 goals), Gaustad(9 goals), Kaleta (8 goals). This covers up the fact that the top 6 are wallowing in mediocrity. It’s a Super-Team without a Super-Star.
4) Tim Connolly is healthy & leading the team in points
Let’s examine their record. 33-18-9 – 75 points, 5th place in Conference, with a healthy 8 point lead over 6th position Philly.
All I hear now from Sabres fans now is how we can’t compete with Pittsburgh, New Jersey, The Caps, or Ottawa. That may be true in the end. I do not see this current Sabres team making a run to the finals. HOWEVER!, Let’s compare this season (22 games remaining) to our pre-season expectations. We’re in great shape to make the playoffs! The team just had a big slump and is still in good shape to make it into the 2nd season.
I’m not a fortune teller. I only know what has already happened. The rest of the season will determine whether it’s truly a success or just an ice flavored mirage. You can’t predict the future but you also can’t go back and change your prediction. We expected “Poor” and we are getting “Very Good”; Bottom Line.
Additional Note: This article paints a positive light on this season. But don’t get it twisted; I want the Frickin’ Stanley Cup. “Very Good” isn’t good enough. I expect Darcy Regier to add scoring. He’s a fool if he thinks this team can win the cup as currently constructed. It may not be possible to get a superstar, but at least show the fans you love that Silver Cup more than you love your precious draft picks & Portland prospects.