As part of our summer series previewing the 2014-15 NHL season, CSNwashington.com is analyzing all 30 NHL teams, division by division. Today we continue with the Western Conference’s Central Division.
Today: BUFFALO SABRES
2013-14 record: 21-51-10 (52 points)
Where they finished: 8th in the Atlantic; 16 in the East; 30th in the NHL
Coach: Ted Nolan (2nd season)
Key additions: LW: Matt Moulson, C Sam Reinhart, C/RW Brian Gionta, D Josh Gorges, D Andrej Meszaros
Key subtractions: RW Cory Conacher, D Christian Ehrhoff, LW Ville Leino, D Alexander Sulzer, RW John Scott
Matt Moulson - Tyler Ennis - Chris Stewart
Cody Hodgson - Sam Reinhart - Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno - Zemgus Girgensosns - Drew Stafford
Bruan Flynn -Mikhail Griogorenko - Torrey Mitchell
Extras: Cody McCormick, Matt Ellis, Zac Dalpe
Tyler Myers - Josh Gorges
Andrej Meszaros- Rasmus Ristolainen
Mark Pysyk - Jake McCabe
Extras: Mike Weber, Tyson Strachan, Nikita Zadorov
Jhonas Enroth - Michal Neuvirth
Our take: The good news for the Sabres is that things can get only get better from here. After bottoming out last season with a last place finish in the NHL's overall standings and trading away face-of-the-franchise Ryan Miller, Buffalo is ready to usher in a new era of Sabres hockey. It may just take some time before the team starts winning with regularity.
The Sabres averaged a franchise-low 1.83 goals-per-game last season and ranked 29th in the NHL on the power play [14.1 percent]. That said, the Sabres could have as many as three fresh faces within their top-six after signing free agents Matt Moulson and Brian Gionta in the offseason and selecting center Sam Reinhart second overall at the NHL Draft.
Moulson had a 44-game cameo appearance with the Sabres last season before being dealt to the Minnesota Wild before the NHL Trade Deadline. The three-time 30-goal scorer returned to Buffalo as a free agent, signing a five-year $25 million deal.
Reinhart, 18, is expected to compete for a roster spot in training camp after excelling in the Canadian Hockey League as one of junior hockey's best two-way forwards.
Gionta, 35, might be better suited as a third liner at this point in his career, but the former Canadiens captain and Rochester, NY, native could play within Buffalo's top-six as the team's prospects continue to develop.
The Sabres also added veteran leadership on the blueline with the acquisition of Josh Gorges via trade from the Montreal Canadiens and the signing of free agent Andrej Meszaros. Both should help fill the void left behind from Christian Ehrhoff, who the final seven years of his contract bought out by Buffalo.
The Sabres are also hoping for a bounce back season from 6-foot-8 Tyler Myers who has never quite been able to recapture the success of his Calder Trophy winning season in 2009-10.
Former Capitals goalie Michal Neuvirth will likely battle with Jhonas Enroth for playing time for much of the season. Both goalies are slated to become unrestricted free agent at season's end.
Will they make the playoffs in 2014-15? No, the Sabres will miss the postseason for a fourth straight year for the first time in franchise history.
Against the Capitals: Sat. Nov.22 at Washington; Sat. Mar.7 at Washington; Mon. Mar.16 at Buffalo