Tuesday, October 6, 2015

The Forman Faceoff 2015/2016 NHL Season Preview - Buffalo Sabres

By: Joel Forman - The Forman Faceoff

Last Season: 23-51-8 with 54 points, last in Atlantic Division and last in Eastern Conference

There is lots of growing optimism and hope for the future of the Sabres in Buffalo, with the roster overhaul they went through this summer what is there not to be excited about? The Sabres drafted Jack Eichel 2nd overall after missing out on 1st pick in the draft lottery, and he has the potential to become an elite NHL player very soon. Lets face it, the Sabres tanked on purpose last year: Tim Murray knew that he was building towards the future and traded what he could to help the Sabres speed up their rebuild. While the season may have cost Ted Nolan his job, the Sabres now have Dan Bylsma on board and we all know he's got a good history with coach a young team. The Sabres made a lot of changes in the summer, so here is a look at their 2015/2016 Season Preview:

Matt Moulson - Ryan O'Reilly - Tyler Ennis
Evander Kane - Jack Eichel - Brian Gionta
Marcus Foligno - Sam Reinhart - Zemgus Girensons
Jamie McGinn - David Legwand - Johan Larsson
Extra: Nicolas Deslauriers

The Sabres have an offense that has the potential to score a lot of goals this season, a deep group of forwards that can score. What's crazy is that they are a completely new team down the middle with the additions of Ryan O'Reilly, Jack Eichel, David Legwand and Sam Reinhart making the jump to the NHL. Lets not forget about Evander Kane, who gets a fresh start with the Sabres and has a great chance to come in and score a lot of goals. As an Avalanche fan it was bittersweet to see O'Reilly leave, but I am excited for him and think that he has a great opportunity with the Sabres to be a leader. Overall the Sabres definitely got better on forward, now it will remain to be seen if they can gain some chemistry and produce to be a good team.

Josh Gorges - Rasmus Ristolainen
Cody Franson - Zach Bogosian
Mike Weber - Mark Pysyk
Extra: Matt Donovan, Jake McCabe

The Sabres made some big changes on D in the last year, trading Tyler Myers in the Evander Kane trade that also sent Zach Bogosian to them in return. The Sabres also dealt Nikita Zadorov to the Avs in the Ryan O'Reilly trade, which paved room for the signing of Cody Franson. The Sabres hope to be a more consistent group defensively and it starts from the backend. Rasmus Ristolainen took big strides as a 19-year old in the NHL last season, and he looks to be one of the leaders on D for the future. Health has already become an issue before season started as both Josh Gorges and Zach Bogosian are hurt, leaving the Sabres very thin on D. It will remain to be seen how the Sabres D will play this season, but expect a breakout year from Rasmus Ristolainen.

Robin Lehner
Chad Johnson

Here is the real question mark for the Buffalo Sabres: their goaltending. The Sabres traded for Robin Lehner from the Senators, the young Swedish goalie who has only been a backup in his career. They also traded for backup Chad Johnson last season, who will serve as a solid backup goaltender. The problem at hand here is that Lehner has lacked consistency in his career, a big reason the Senators were okay with trading him this summer. If Lehner is unable to keep up as a #1 goalie, pressure will be on Chad Johnson to step up and he really doesn't have the experience either. The Sabres seem to have faith in Lehner so it will be very interesting to see how it plays out. 

2015/2016 Outlook and Prediction:

7th in Atlantic Division, 13th in Eastern Conference

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