2011-2012 Preview: Buffalo Sabres

Posted: September 3, 2011 by Realdeal in Buffalo Sabres, Season Preview
Tags: , , , ,

Last season: 43-29-10, 96 points. 7th in the East, lost in the first round to Philadelphia (4-3).

Key Additions: D Christian Ehrhoff, RW Ales Kotalik, F Ville Leino, D Robyn Regehr

Key Losses: D Chris Butler, C Paul Byron, C Tim Connolly, RW Mike Grier, G Patrick Lalime, RW Mark Mancari, D Steve Montador

Offense: The Sabres offense is led by former 40 goal scorer Thomas Vanek. The Austrian only had 32 goals last year, but tied a career high with 41 assists. Derek Roy missed more than half of 2011-12 with a torn quad, but still picked up 35 points in 35 games. He’ll be ready for the start of this season. Newcomer Leino (14 goals, 53 points with Philadelphia) should fill the void of Tim Connolly nicely. Drew Stafford missed 20 games and still was able to register 31 goals. The population continues to increase in Pominville, as Jason was able to notch 20 goals for the fifth straight year. Tyler Ennis (5’9) and Nathan Gerbe (5’5) may be short, but both can play. They should both score 20 while playing with the Sabres’ top 9. Brad Boyes, acquired at the trade deadline from St. Louis, had 14 points in 21 games with the team. Versatile veteran Jochen Hecht can play any forward spot and is trusted on the penalty kill. Paul Gaustad was among the league leaders in faceoff percentage (59.6%). Pat Kaleta is the team’s main agitator and Cody McCormick is the enforcer (16 fights, 142 PIM).

Defense: Ehrhoff will be the Sabres go to guy on the blueline. The former Canuck scored a career high 14 goals, 50 points last year, while posting a +19. The team also has 2010 Calder trophy winner, Tyler Myers, who had some growing pains last year, but should continue to develop. Now in his 9th NHL season, Jordan Leopold is still a reliable defenseman. Robyn Regehr was acquired in a trade and will be playing his first season outside of Calgary. Andrej Sekera (29 points) was re-signed for 4 years, $11 million. Rookie Marc-Andre Gragnani only played nine games last year, but could crack the top 6. He’ll battle with hard hitting Mike Weber (158 hits).

Goaltending: Ryan Miller had a “down” year by his standards in 2010-11, going 34-22-8 with a 2.59 GAA and a 91.6 save percentange, after winning the Vezina Trophy in 2010. After Lalime retired, Miller’s backup this year will be Jhonas Enroth. Enroth played 14 games last year posting a 9-2-2 record.  He mainly spent time with the AHL’s Portland Pirates, playing in 41 games.

Standout Player: Ryan Miller
As Miller goes, the Sabres go.  He has been one of the best goalies in the league for the last few years and this year should be no different.

Prediction: 2nd Northeast, 5th East
The Sabres should battle with the Bruins and Canadiens for Northeast supremacy.  The team is improved but not enough to crack the top 4 in the East.

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