Sabres look to turn things around in '03-'04

After a disappointing year, the Sabres look to rebound and emerge from their past with new ownership and a few new faces in the lineup.For the first time in a long while the Sabres have finally made some significant changes this offseason. I will attempt to construct what the lineup might look like but, it is all merely speculation. Here goes….

Forwards:

Hecht – Drury – Satan

Pyatt – Briere – Dumont

Kotalik – Brown – Afinogenov

Boulton – Connolly / Mair – Milley

Extras – Derek Roy, Chris Taylor and Jason Botterill

Defense:

Zhitnik – Kalinin

McKee – Talinder

Delmore – Campbell

Extras – James Patrick, Joel Bouchard and Rory Fitzpatrick

Goaltending:

Biron

Noranen

Miller

This being said, I know the line combos will probably change, especially with young Derek Roy almost making the team last year. The addition of Drury and Briere will finally give the Sabres what they have needed since Pat Lafontaine left: a center that can playmake and score. I believe the Sabres have had the young talent for a couple of years now in players such as Connolly, Pyatt, Kotalik and Afinogenov. Hopefully, with the additions the Sabres have made on offence, this will push these younger guys to step up, especially Connolly. If they don’t come into their own this year, it may be their last with the club.

The Sabres success in years past was based largely on their defensive prowess. Hasek did make the defense better, but he didn’t do it alone. The Sabres have a few real up and comers on the defense with the likes of Kalinin, Talinder and Campbell. All three made big enough strides last year to warrant the Sabres parting with Rhett Warrener. The aquisition of Andy Delmore will be a huge upgrade for the powerplay. C’mon this was a team that had Connolly playing the point, hence his horrific +/- rating last year. It seemed the Sabres were giving up a shorthanded goal every other powerplay. Delmore will likely be the fifth or sixth defenseman on this team, mainly because of all the others simply being less of a defensive liability.

You will be hard pressed to find a team in the league as stacked as the Sabres are in net. Albeit they are all young, each one has the ability to blossom into an All-Star. Patience with Biron is stating to wear thin, even though the Sabres didn’t put a good team in front of him last year. We all saw Noranen and Miller struggle last year, but we also saw flashes of brilliance. Miller probably has the biggest upside of the three and it will be interesting to see how this three man race plays out over the course of the year. What you won’t see is Biron traded, at least not until the end of season. If the Sabres bomb again, which I don’t think will happen, we could see him being shipped elsewhere. The Sabres do not want to go into this year with Noranen and Miller being one and two. The Sabres have put too much into this season to go into this year without a proven goaltender. If Biron was traded and Noranen and Miller swoon, as they did in last year in certain games, Regier can kiss his job goodbye. That’s why it won’t happen.

All this being said I believe the Sabres have made big strides this off season. This doesn’t mean I think they will win it all, but they will definetely be a better team. I say look for them to make the playoffs next year. If the Sabres can build off the second half of last season, they will make it.

As it seems there are no other Sabre fans that write on this site, I will look to contribute more in the future. Enjoy…..