Well, this had to be one of the most interesting Sabres seasons in recent memory. Buffalo started the season with a whimper, losing at a pace that had more of us thinking draft lottery than playoffs. The first hints of Terry Pegula gave a vague hope for the future, but we didn’t know anything about him yet, so it was only a small distraction. November was better than October, but not by much.
December finally had a good game or two for Ryan Miller, and the Terry Pegula rumors picked up steam. The Sabres’ best offensive player at the time, Derek Roy, went down with an injury and only just now was able to return. After that, many of us (myself included) counted Buffalo out. They’d only gotten 30 points in the first 33 games, Miller was not the Vezina Miller, and Myers was looking more like a rookie this year than last.
January, things got VERY interesting there. You’ll remember that’s when Stafford-mania began, as Buffalo came home for a game in the middle of the WJC road trip and beat the Bruins 7-6, on the back of a Staffy hat trick. The beginnings of the upward swing were showing, with the Sabres going 4-0-1 after a sort of bottoming out loss to Calgary. Nathan Gerbe suddenly found his way, earning his spot in the lineup and coming up huge (er, sort of) as the team inched their way back up the standings. The month ended with the long all-star break, but the real story was still Terry Pegula, who kept appearing in all the right places as the team sale picked up steam.
February, yeah, February was kind of fun. Terry Pegula really did buy the team, Thomas Vanek was in Atlas mode, Twitter met the Pegula daughters, and Tyler Myers was an OT hero. Pegula day was AWESOME, and the team was rolling. March was much of the same, with Buffalo in the playoffs and controlling their own destiny. Even their deadline day acquisition contributed for more than one game. We fell in love with these guys, and never wanted the ride to end. The Sabres won a bunch of games to end the regular season, looking primed to upset some dudes in the playoffs.
Well, we all know what happened there. They took the Flyers to 7, but couldn’t get it done. Injuries to key guys didn’t help, but in the end, it was a 2 seed over a 7 seed. So what now? It’s hard to say. This is Terry Pegula’s first off-season, and the team has ‘no financial mandates’. Buffalo will have a lot of cap room (as high as $21 million thanks to the new TV deal) but also a lot of spots up for grabs. Defense in particular could look very different, with only 3 guys under contract (one of them Shaone Morrisonn). Will they make a big trade? Go hard after the biggest names? Fill spots with guys from Portland that should get a shot? Do Kassian and Foligno figure in? What do they do with Enroth (RFA)? The ride will continue, and I can’t help but think the outlook continues to be bright.
What will happen here? Locker cleanout usually has some interesting bits, where we find out who was injured, especially. I may comment on the other games and series, and then it’s off-season mode. Future posts will look at the roster, the spots and free agents. Thank you Sabres.