NHL – Buffalo Sabres’ 2011-2012 Season Outlook

27 Oct

It wouldn’t be fair to call this post the Buffalo Sabres’ season preview, since the season is already well underway. So we’ll call it the season “outlook” and take a look at where the club stands as this season begins to progress:

Front Office

If you include owner Terry Pegula and his family here, this is the best part of the organization. They have breathed new life into the organization, from remodeling the locker room to continuing the plaza parties, and most importantly, putting GM Darcy Regier on a level playing field with the big spenders of the league when it comes to player acquisitions. Team president Ted Black is also a great addition to the franchise, and even if the team is still a ways from being a true championship contender, the new attitude of the franchise is making it fun for the fans as they go all out to make it happen.


Lindy Ruff has always done a good job of taking whatever players he was handed and molding them into a competitive, hard-working team on the ice. Then cheap ownership would allow the most valuable members of the team, from Mike Peca and Dominik Hasek on through to Chris Drury and Daniel Briere, to leave and Ruff would have to make do with the scraps left behind. And usually he would do a decent job of piecing together those scraps and putting a competitive, accountable team on the ice. Now we get to see what Ruff can accomplish with a little support from management. The club has been good so far this season and only stands to improve once the new players get accustomed to playing with each other and with Ruff’s system.


Jhonas Enroth

It could be argued that with the emergence of Jhonas Enroth at the end of last season as a reliable backup goalie, the Sabres have the best goaltending depth in the NHL. Ryan Miller is considered world-class and although I still am not sure of that assessment, I believe he is capable of back-stopping the team to a Stanley Cup title if the cast around him is improved. In the past fans always thought Tom Barrasso was good, but never good enough to take the Sabres to the top, but when he left here and was able to play with a talented Pittsburgh Penguin team he was more than adequate to help them win multiple Cups. I definitely see Miller’s situation being similar to Barrasso – the difference being that Miller stays here while the championship team is assembled around him – which never would have happened under previous owners. The presence of Enroth as a second option that Ruff can use, who has the total confidence of his teammates, means that there’s no reason to overwork Miller. The team should be in excellent shape as far as goaltending is concerned throughout the regular season and playoffs if both goalies stay healthy.


Nathan Gerbe


The Sabres don’t have an offensive threat that strikes fear in any opponent, and haven’t really had one since the record-breaking duo of Pat Lafontaine and Alexander Mogilny. They have been relying in recent years on a balanced attack, which can be advantageous come playoff time when teams try to match lines. Their most feared scorer now is Thomas Vanek, who has a great shot and also a knack for scoring in the tough areas around the net. Drew Stafford finally developed into the goal scorer the team expected when they drafted him, and the return of Derek Roy should help the offense also. New captain Jason Pominville hasn’t been a great scorer over his career but gives the offense something just as valuable – consistency. The Sabres should also expect players like Tyler Ennis, Nathan Gerbe and Luke Adam to push their games to the next level. Ruff now has a new toy to play with when he puts his line combinations together – newly-signed free agent Ville Leino. Leino has been a productive scorer in his NHL career, especially in the playoffs, which should be a tremendous help to the team. Add in the toughness that players like Paul Gaustad, Cody McCormick and Patrick Kaleta provide, along with any contributions they get from spare parts like Jochen Hecht, Matt Ellis and Brad Boyes, and the Sabres have all the ingredients they should need to have their offensive game covered.


Christian Ehrhoff


Buffalo’s defense corps was adequate last season, but the team went out and got the unit some help in the off-season. Big Tyler Myers is on his way to becoming one of the top defensemen in the NHL, and should start to develop more of a mean streak as he grows into his body. The addition of Robyn Regehr will increase the toughness factor of the unit also. Marc-Andre Gragnani was a revelation in last year’s playoffs and will be a big addition to the team’s blue line, and the power play, as a full-time starter this year. Another newcomer, Christian Ehrhoff, was solid as an offensive defenseman in Vancouver’s run to the Cup finals last year, and will help upgrade the Sabres defense corps also. Holdovers Mike Weber, Andrej Sekera and Jordan Leopold round out what is now as good as any defensive unit in the league.

1 Comment

Posted in Hockey

  1. Louise

    October 27, 2011 at 4:09 pm

    Always enjoy reading your blog. Good analysis and solid writing style.