BUFFALO – The Buffalo Sabres teased their fans once again. What looked like a potential play team ended up becoming a team in the NHL Draft Lottery. Buffalo will look for ways to bounce back next season but in the mean time will have the NHL Entry Draft to look forward too.
Statically speaking the Sabres fell in both scoring and in defense. Last season they were 17th in offense and 18th in defense, 16th on the power play and 19th on the penalty kill, and 19th in face-offs. This season they were 23rd in offense, 22nd in defense, 29th on the power play, 26th on the penalty kill, and 29th on face-offs. So much for progress huh?
The Sabres poor play finally cost Lindy Ruff his job and the house cleaning began. Buffalo traded away Jason Pominville and a 2014 4th round pick to Minnesota for the Wilds 2013 1st round pick, 2014 2nd round pick, G Matt Hackett and LW Johan Larsson. While the two first round picks will help the future, trading one of those picks for help now might have to happen in a deep draft.
On offense Thomas Vanuk, who has one year left to go on his contract, led the team in offense with 20 goals in 38 games. You can bet if the Sabres are in the same position come trade deadline next season Vanuk’s name will be brought up. In fact, don’t be surprised if his name comes up at this year’s draft. Cody Hodgson has been a Godsend with 15 goals and is a huge part of the Sabres future. Tyler Ennis had 10 goals with Stave Ott came close with 9.
On defense Christian Ehrhoff led the defense in points and in the plus minus category but oddly enough three other defensemen was plus players on a poor defensive team. They also have a fairly good stable of defensive prospects in the system so look for the Sabres to go offensive and for goalie help at the draft.
The goaltending wasn’t bad in terms of save percentages but the goals against averages were pushing the 3.00 mark but how much of that was due to poor play in front of the goalies as much as it was the goalies themselves. Save percentage is a better barometer for a goaltender so we will cut them some slack. Still Ryan Miller is also heading into the last year of his contract. You can bet a least one team will want him if the Sabres decide to let him walk. Jhonas Enroth is an RFA but look for him to be resigned.
As mentioned before Buffalo has a few defensive prospects but need scoring wingers. Buffalo is in a good position to take a least one with so many quality forwards left in the top 10 based on how our mock draft is going. Trust me when I say it won’t be that much different come draft day. With that said, look for the Sabres to make the following announcement come draft day.
“With the 8th overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Buffalo Sabres select, from the Western Hockey League’s Medicine Hat Tigers, Hunter Shinkarak.”
Contact the author at Brian.Jennings@prohockeynews.com