Buffalo Sabres 2005-2006

TEAM NAME: Buffalo Sabres

TEAM PAYROLL: $28,294,230

GENERAL MANAGER: Darcy Regier: Entering 9th season as general manager of the Buffalo Sabres.

HEAD COACH: Lindy Ruff. Entering 9th season as head coach of the Buffalo Sabres

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FORGOTTEN MOVES: Not much was done for the Sabres before the lockout began. They remained a low budget team that hoped for a salary cap. No additions were made to the roster.

TEAM MODE: The Sabres are in the hunt for the playoffs, but with the loss of long time Sabre Miroslav Satan it seems questionable. The Sabres remain the same on the forward lines, with the likelihood of former first rounder Thomas Vanek making the squad, in hopes of a productive season. A key player will be Jochen Hecht, who proved his offensive abilities last year scoring 52 points in just 64 games, and an impressive plus-minus rating of 17. Hecht is fairly young at age 28, and entering in his prime years of his career. The Sabres may just get lucky if Hecht stays healthy and performs as a 1st line winger. On the other wing is former blue chip Isle’s prospect JP Dumont, acquired from the Chicago Blackhawks, who is now 27 years old and finished the last season played with a career high 53 points. With Hecht and Dumont as solid scoring wingers, it leaves Daniel Briere as a strong point producer for the Sabres. With these three young forwards, plus Stanley Cup winner Chris Drury, veteran defenseman Teppo Numminen, and solid two-way defenseman Tony Lydman, the Sabres should be considered a playoff contender.

TO TAKE CHARGE!: Chris Drury may become the center of the attention. The 29 year old spent a short time in Calgary, but knows where he stands out in the NHL. He has great character, good offensive abilities, and the kind of future leader that will become a fan favorite in Buffalo land. He has to regain his 60 point form and push the young Sabres each game. Drury knows what it takes to win. He has been under great coaches and good leadership, and it is his turn to make himself into a role player for the Sabres and take his game to the next level as a point producer and a leader.

ON THE RUSH (OFFENSE): A steal in the Gratton trade, Briere came off an amazing productive season recording a 65 point season. Yes, the Sabres will miss Miro Satan and his explosive offensive abilities, but they carry a young team with a solid first line. Who will be the main guy to look at, though? Chris Drury. After his short stay in Calgary, the five time 20 goal scorer returns to Buffalo leading a team of young players to the playoffs. With the new rule changes, Drury should be able to regain his 60 point form and strengthen the top two lines, depending where Ruff places him. One of my sleeper picks of the year is Maxim Afinogenov. The skilled Russian finds himself in a more spacious NHL where he can burst in the neutral zone receiving two line passes. On NHL.com, Afinogenov appeared twice in the Top 10 greatest goals of the 2003-2004 season. Entering his 6th season as an NHL’er, Afinogenov can prove to be a skilled 2nd line scorer, and probably a key player on shootouts. Look for Tim Connolly to turn his career around this season. After a full year of recovery from injuries that hindered his development, Connolly has a lot to prove this year, if healthy. Another player who has struggled to meet expectations is Taylor Pyatt. Still young at age 24, Pyatt needs to prove his worth in order to have any hopes left of his capabilities as a potential power forward.

COVERING THE D-ZONE: The Sabres seemed to have lost out on any improvements offensively, but on the defense GM Regier made a couple of improvements after losing Alexei Zhitnik to free agency, and James Patrick to retirement. Adding Teppo Numminen fills the hole that Patrick left. Though health may be an issue, Numminen is a leader on and off the ice and could push former Flame, and newly acquired, defenseman Tony Lydman towards career highs. Lydman has been added to the group on defense to make up for the loss of Zhitnik. Though he may not be in the same class as Zhitnik, Lydman provides a good combination of responsible defense and decent offensive production. Returning as original Sabre defensemen, Jay McKee and Dmitri Kalnin. These two add bulk to the defensive core, and solid defensive abilities. On the plus side, Kalinin is also another decent offense producer from the blueline, and look for him and Lydman to be the main power-play defensemen.

GUARDING THE NET: The Sabres have a great commodity in the crease. From the goalie that I favor, Martin Biron, to solid back-up and potential starter Mikko Noronen and to long time blue chip prospect Ryan Miller, who is now 25 years of age. The best goalies in training camp and pre-season will guard the net throughout the season. But, what if this leads to Miller being a solid performer, maybe even better than Noronen? The Sabres have some tradable assets that could be very useful, especially to add offense. I still think Martin Biron is the main guy in nets, and he should be more than ready to lead the Sabres towards the playoffs. Either way, whoever gets the start will have to be at the top of his game to enforce the Sabres defense if the offense does not prevail.

TALKING ABOUT MY GENERATION!: I recall watching Thomas Vanek playing in the Frozen Four Finals for Minnesota. And what do you know? He played that finals game right in Buffalo. Vanek is a combination of size and refined skills. He is strong on the puck and as he will add more frame and strength to his body, Vanek may be the future forward for the Sabres. I still like to stick with one young player in Ales Kotalik. He is in the mid-twenties now, but the Czech forward proved his offensive potential two years ago when scoring 21 goals in 68 games. With more room to score, Kotalik can prove to be a 25 goal scoring forward.

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PROJECTED LINES: It’s a toss due to the possibility of maybe Afinogenov stepping up his play and if Thomas Vanek receives a 2nd line spot. Here is a possible scenario:

Forwards:

Hecht-Briere-Afinogenov

Vanek-Drury-Dumont

Kotalik-Connolly-Grier

Pyatt-Taylor-Mair

Peters-Roy-Bartovic

Defensemen:

Lydman-Numminen

McKee-Kalinin

Tallinder-Campbell

Jillson-Fitzpatrick

Goalies:

Biron-Miller-Noronen

EXPECTATIONS: The Buffalo Sabres could most likely be expected to finish just out of the playoffs in 9th place of the Eastern Conference. Still a young team, the Sabres depend a lot on their young offensive tools. Any injury to a significant player, such as Briere, Hecht, or Lydman, may put the Sabres through rough moments.

PROJECTED: Contrary to what may be expected throughout the league, I never under estimate the Buffalo Sabres. They are a young team, but one that can compete for the playoffs nonetheless. I like their goaltending, the defense is strong defensively with good skating defensemen who can contribute offensively. I think the offense remains the major concern, but with Briere, Drury, and Hecht, the Sabres should be good enough to keep low scoring games by scoring enough and shutting down the opponents with their strong defense. I project the Sabres to make the playoffs as the 8th seed team of the Eastern Conference.


22 Responses to Buffalo Sabres 2005-2006

  1. Buffalo_Sabres_Fan says:

    You have some errors in the information provided in this article.

    1) There were roster additions

    Lydman and Numminen

    2) Peca trade

    Hecht was not accquired through the Peca trade. They recieved Pyatt and Connolly. They got Hecht through a trade on draft day a few years back from the Oilers for a draft pick.

    3) Goalies

    Nurminen isn’t on the sabres and never was. You are thinking of Mika Noronen not Mikko Nurminen.

    Couple comments to add to the article.

    Kotalik is fighting for the final 4 forward spots along with Pyatt.

    Vanek is looking extremely strong in the preseason. He is leading the team in goals with five so far.

    Miller is standing out between the three goalies. Miller is the only of the three goalies that can be sent back to the minors without going throuh waivers. I think its between him and Biron for the starting spot.

    Other than that good preview!

  2. JannettyTheRocker says:

    Must say, it’s nice to see someone follow their team so carefully………

  3. raine_kalisz says:

    He mentions Lydman and Numminen, they’re both on the roster there as the top two Dmen.

  4. mikster says:

    Forgotten moves showed moves that were done prior to the lockout season. So, 2004 off-season.

    Lydman and Numminen were in the 2005 offseason.

    I never mentioned Hecht for Peca. I still made the mistake of mentioning Dumont though. Thanks for pointing that out.

    And yes, Noronen too. Ouch, two mistakes…. Sorry about that. But hey, Nurminen, Noronen, Nieminen,….. damnitinen!

  5. JScottLeRoi says:

    No offense to mikster, since I know he had to cover a lot of teams and he can’t be an expert on them all, but this isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of the Sabres.

    Forwards: Vanek has led the league in goal scoring for most of the preseason and has had tremendous chemistry with Briere. He has secured himself a first line spot, not second line with Drury. Dumont will play the opposite wing on the top line. Drury has been skating with Grier and Hecht. Pyatt, Kotalik and Connolly have been publicly called out by their coach to step up or get shipped out. Afinogenov has shown he’s having a hard time finishing plays and is almost guaranteed to start the season on the third line. Fighting for the other 5 low line spots will be Connolly, Pyatt, Kotalik, Mair and some prospects from Rochester. I was suprised to not see any named, especially Derek Roy. Jason Pominville, Milan Bartovic, Paul Gaustad, Dan Paille and enforcer Andrew Peters are the others. The Sabres logjam on their 3rd and 4th line is almost as bad as the logjam in the net. It won’t be as easy to send guys back to Rochester, as some will now have to pass through waivers.

    D: The team expects Dmitri Kalinin to step up as their #1 D and replacement for Zhitnik. He should be starting the season with Numminen. Lydman and Mckee round out the top 4. Tallinder seems to have secured a spot. Fitzpatrick led the team in scoring in camp and has had a great showing in preseason, even knocking in some shootout goals. He finds himself out in front of Campbell and Jillson on the depth chart. Campbell was also on Lindy Ruff’s list of players who need to step up.

    Goal: Biron is a solid starter, but has a $2.1mil price tag, which makes him hard to move. His backup was Mika Noronen. Mikka Nurminen is not, nor was he ever, an NHL player. I had to look the name up on hockeydb.com to see if he even exists. He did, but barely. Mika Noronen has been a disappointment so far in preseason, letting in 4 goals in one period to lose to the Wild. He comes cheap (665K) making him the early favorite to be shipped out. Ryan Miller is likely the most talented minder in the lineup, and fans are ready for him to steal the show, but unless management finds away to ship out Biron, and find a decent backup for him, Miller will find himself back in Rochester. Noronen would most likely have to be traded in that situation too, since he wouldn’t want to spend another of his prime years on the pine.

    Projected: Vanek will find himself in a Calder race with all of his ice time and natural scoring ability, but will lose out in the end to the likes of Crosby and Ovechkin. The team won’t suffer on offense from the loss of Satan. The D is still missing a clear cut #1 guy, so unless Kalinin comes alive, the blue line won’t look so hot this year. As long as management makes a goaltending decision soon, the net should show some signs of improvement from previous years, no matter which of the 3 they go with. They could still use another pure scoring talent in the top 6, and a top defensemen, but don’t expect much. They will prove to be exciting to watch this year, but will likely miss out of a playoff spot in the talented East. 9th or 10th seed.

  6. JScottLeRoi says:

    forgot my lines, even though I pretty much laid them out. I expect some more movement before everything is settled, but with what they have now:

    Vanek-Briere-Dumont

    Hecht-Drury-Grier

    Kotalik-Connolly-Afinogenov

    Gaustad-Roy-Pominville

    (Peters/Mair/Bartovic/Pyatt/Paille)

    Defensemen:

    Kalinin-Numminen

    McKee-Lydman

    Tallinder-Fitzpatrick

    Jillson-Campbell

    Goalies:

    Biron-Noronen

    Miller (Rochester)

  7. mikster says:

    None taken. I tried to study this from THN, TSN, and the Sporting News season preview, which was horrible.

    I did the best i could! It was an open position for any Sabres fan and i received some candidates, but some sent me unconvincing applications, and others did not show enough interest when they had the opportunity.

    The great thing about this is that fans like you post comments to correct things and to further expand the season preview, giving more knowledge to other hockey fans.

    Thanks for your time to add a better and more correct point of view on a franchise that i hope does well.

  8. Starkey77 says:

    I still don’t see where he made the mistake of mentioning Nurminen rather than Noronen although he did write Mikko Noronen.

  9. Starkey77 says:

    In a division which boasts the likes of Ottawa, Boston, Montreal, and Toronto (in that order) it seems far fetched and highly unlikely that the Sabres will finish in a playoff spot. Because I believe that all 4 other teams in the division will finish ahead of them it would mean that all 5 teams in the Northeast finish in the top 8 spots. Not likely with up and coming teams like the Thrashers, Panthers, and Pens to name a few; and let’s not forget powerhouses like Philly and Tampa.

    It’s going to be interesting to see how the Sabres do this year and although I don’t see them pushing for a playoff spot they may surprise.

    I cannot wait for the start of this season with all of the new rules and more balance regarding the teams throughout the league.

  10. JScottLeRoi says:

    I would have applied, but by the time I knew about it, I thought you had the Sabres covered. For not having the benefit of easy access to Buffalo media, it was one of the best I’ve read. Except the goalie misname of course (hehehe).

  11. Buffalo_Sabres_Fan says:

    Only reson I mentioned them is because at the tope he said no additions were made to the roster.

  12. JScottLeRoi says:

    The hard part is, they have to play a total of 32 of their 82 games against the teams in their division. If Lindros and Allison have the impact that I know Toronto fans are hoping for, and Buffalo does surprise the fans this year, it will be easily one of the toughest divisions in the league. But it will be tough for the Sabres to even stay at .500 through those 32 games. That’s mostly why I think the Sabres will fall short. Their best hope is other teams falling on their face or getting hit with injuries.

  13. JScottLeRoi says:

    It’s been corrected.

  14. Starkey77 says:

    I meant to mention the facing each team in your division 8 times and hence the division being so tough to escape with a playoff spot. Thanks!

  15. mikster says:

    Yeah, the names was a bad mistake. I i read it over too a couple of times!

    Hey, we’ll do the mid-season reports. Stick around if you want to take part of it and write it up for the Sabres.

  16. JScottLeRoi says:

    I’ve been around for a few seasons now, just havne’t been contributing. I’m sure I’ll stick around.

  17. 19AVSFANFoLIFE19 says:

    nono it said no additions prior to the lockout. like when colorado signed vincent damphouse. pittsburgh with mark recchi. that time not these last 2 months.

  18. Mullet says:

    I think we’ll see Buffalo shipping Biron off soon as they want to go with Miller as #1 and the much cheaper Noronen at #2. I think he’ll end up in LA for Aaron Miller!

  19. JScottLeRoi says:

    There are a lot of Biron for Aaron Miller rumors. I don’t think he’d be the answer for their top D-man, but not a bad pickup. Only problem is, then they have about 10 defensemen on their roster, and Lindy Ruff has said he only wants to keep 8. There would have to be more moves to follow if that were the case. Unless they plan on letting guys hit waivers (Campbell/Jillson).

    Also, I think the majority is sold on Miller being the starter and Biron being shipped out, but I don;t know how much thoguht people have put into making Noronen the backup. He’s already said that he wants to have a shot somewhere. We may be looking at a trade demand from him if he doesn’t get the nod. Even if he doesn’t wanna leav, he wasn’t that hot of a backup in the past. At his salary (almost 700K) they might be better off looking at a vet backup instead. Last rumored offer to Potvin was 800K.

    But the bottom line is, don’t count on Darcy Regeir to make a move that makes sense.

  20. intelligentscorpio says:

    For about $29 mil, they could haave put a better group of players togethe, howeever they got rid of high salries for Satan and Zhitnik. Vanek is the kid to watch.

  21. Mullet says:

    Reported by Eklund today, Buffalo wants to ship Mikka Noronen to the AHL. The only problem with that however is that he must first pass through waivers. According to Eklund if this happens both Toronto and Atlanta would try and pounce on Noronen as their backup goalie.

  22. JScottLeRoi says:

    Eklund took that from a fan in Buffalo that said that Darcy “intimated” that Noronen would be sent down through waivers. I did not get the same impression from the interview. At one point Darcy specifically said when asked about the 3 goalie situation “a trade IS coming.” He also went on to say that he didnt want to help out division by giving them players, so it sounds like he’s doing what he can not to give him to Toronto (the only team rumored to have made an offer so far). He knows Noronen would not make it through waivers right now. He’d be better off sending him to Atlanta for a 6th rounder than to let him go for free, possibly to a division rival. He’d also be better off sending Miller down (still AHL eligible without waivers) since he would only back up Biron anyway, then wait until teams settle their goalie situations. He would either get better offers for Noronen, or it would be easier to send him through waivers then than it is right now.

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