Buffalo Sabres season preview: It’ll be prettier, but still not pretty
Plus: Buffalo Sabres General Manager Tim Murray has injected hope n a short amount of time. The team went out and traded for Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, David Legwand and Robin Lehner, hired the former Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma, signed Cody Franson and drafted generational talent Jack Eichel with the second overall pick. Throw in the addition of Sam Reinhart, who will officially become a full-time NHL player, and you automatically have a better team. Oh, and Kane, O’Reilly, Lehner, Eichel, Reinhart, Tyler Ennis, Zemgus Girgensons, Zach Bogosian and Rasmus Ristolainen are all 25 or younger, and all will play considerably large roles for years to come in Buffalo.
Minus: It’s still not a good team. The top-six forwards look great, but the bottom-six forwards are riddled with players who are either really inexperienced or they simply have middling ceilings. And the top-four defensemen look good on paper, but whatever the combination of players the bottom pair ends up being is not going to be good enough. And while Murray seems to have full confidence in Lehner, the 24-year-old goaltender has not yet proven he is a bonafide franchise goaltender.
X-Factor: Evander Kane
Kane went from a super-skilled superstar to a walking TMZ fiasco almost overnight. Kane, a former 30-goal scorer, was infamously traded out of Winnipeg after a falling out with his team mates that resulted in Dustin Byfuglien throwing his tracksuit into a shower. Following the incident, Kane promptly bowed out of the season after shoulder surgery knocked him out for the remainder of the year. Now, a change of scenery should inspire the 24-year-old forward to completely change face and become the player everyone knows he is capable of becoming.
Prediction: The Sabres won’t quite make the playoffs, but they won’t be nearly as bad as they have been the past couple of seasons. This team needs to be all about gaining experience and growing together. Murray will probably get his hands on another juicy 2016-draft pick, and from here on out, the Sabres can only get better and better.