5 Risky Predictions : Buffalo Sabres
1) Buffalo Sabres do not get the first overall pick
The Buffalo Sabres are bad. Sorry Sabres fans, but facts are facts. However, the Sabres are not nearly as bad as they were last year, as they got better in every aspect of their game except for goaltending. With the additions of Stewart, Moulson, Gionta, Meszaros, and Benoit, they see a significant increase in talent amongst their offensivee and defensive core. Their goaltending is what will be their downfall. It will be up to three unproven tenders (Hackett, Enroth, and Neuvirth) to find some level of comfort in between the pipes. For this reason I think the Sabres have a ways to go before being considered any sort of contender, but they also are not the worst team in the league.
2) Matt Moulson truly finds himself in Buffalo
Matt Moulson was a player who came to the Sabres mid 2013-2014 season and when he was traded away at the deadline, it was expected that he would obviously never return. As a player who found the bench in his first stint with the Sabres, many would have thought the relationship went sour. However, Moulson decided to sign long term in Buffalo, and comes back now as player in his prime with something to prove. Look for him to have an excellent year this year and return to the Matt Moulson we remember who slotted in so well with John Tavares. Although his centerman (likely Hodgson) does not hold the talent of Tavares, his ability creates some space for Moulson who does not need much to put the puck in the net. With another large winger on his side in Stewart, Moulson will really begin to find success in Buffalo and be a major asset in the Sabres’ current rebuild.
3) Zemgus Girgensons breaks out
Girgensons was a player in Buffalo this season who found moderate success during his second year. His hands and speed are what make him a successful player. With a little more leadership and a lot more talent on the roster, this season could be the year you see Girgensons break out as a very talented player for the Sabres. Look for him to score 15 goals, and his minutes to increase as the season goes along. He could become a fan favorite in Buffalo and another player who becomes a very valuable asset in the Sabre rebuild.
4) Cody Hodgson has a career-year
I know I keep writing about players who I believe will have more success for the Sabres this season, but that’s because I truly believe the Sabres have a wealth of young talent who are only going to continue to get better. That being said, Cody Hodgson has been the Buffalo Sabres’ best player, aside from Ryan Miller, over the last two seasons. It is safe to say that Buffalo came out as the winners in a deal that saw them trade Zack Kassian to Buffalo in exchange for Hodgson. Since then, he has had a 15-goal season and a 20-goal season. With the team getting better, look for this growth to continue and Hodgson to be on the brink of a 30-goal season this year. Hodgson may not remain Buffalo’s best player, but still remains a large piece to the puzzle and as someone who already knows the team, and their management, look for him to take on a valuable leadership role amongst this young roster.
5) Buffalo Sabres make a trade for a goaltender
The Buffalo Sabres aren’t much of a wait around and see team. With their wealth of prospects and young talent, I would look for them to trade for a more proven NHL goaltender. This could mean a high price, but Buffalo will pay it if it means they have a more stable option for a goalie. If things go sour in Toronto, look for Buffalo to go after a guy like Reimer, who at a $2.5 mil cap hit, is very reasonable for a starter. With Enroth, Hackett and Neuvirth in the system, any team would get a solid choice for a backup as a return as well as a solid prospect. Although Buffalo has a lot of holes in their roster, their largest hole is goaltending, and I would look for them to improve there before seasons end.