With a promising core, the Buffalo Sabres failed to impress in 2016-17, finishing last in the Atlantic division with 78 points. But on the positive side, 20 year old sensation Jack Eichel broke out a little with 24 goals and 57 points. To improve their staff, the Sabres brought in hall-of-famer Phil Housley as their head coach. On the ice, the Sabres made more moves. Let\’s take a look at what they did.
Notable additions: RW Jason Pominville, LW Benoit Pouliot, C Jacob Josefon, F Seth Griffith, D Nathan Beaulieu, D Marco Scandella, G Chad Johnson.
Notable subtractions: RW Tyler Ennis, LW Marcus Foligno, RW Brian Gionta, F William Carrier, D Dmitry Kulikov, D Cody Franson, G Anders Nillson.
Here are my projected forward lines.
Evander Kane- Ryan O\’Reilly – Kyle Okposo
Matt Moulson – Jack Eichel – Sam Reinhart
Benoit Pouliot – Sean Malone – Jason Pominville
Nicolas Deslauriers – Jacob Josefson – Seth Griffith
The first line is really nice, especially if Kane can get things going. Eichel and Reinhart are both young, and getting to play with a vet in Moulson helps. The rookie Malone gets to center two vets, so that helps too. The fourth line is a grinder, Deslauriers, Josefson a nice 4th line center, and Griffith, who is small, but feisty. Johan Larsson and C.J. Smith are the extra forwards.
Here are my projected defensive pairs.
Marco Scandella – Rasmus Ristolainen
Nathan Beaulieu – Zach Bogosian
Jake McCabe – Victor Antipin
Ristolainen is a growing top-2 defenseman. Scandella, the new guy, is a nice top-4 defenseman. Same goes with Beaulieu and Bogosian. McCabe is a top-6 defenseman, and Antipin, the rookie, gets a chance at the NHL. Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun and Josh Gorges are the replacements.
Lehner is still growing, and looking for a breakout season. Johnson has been with the team before, and is a solid backup.
The Sabres are still a growing team. I think that they will have a much better 2017-18, with 85 points, seven more than in 2016-17. But, they will finish just 7th in the Atlantic division, right behind sixth place. That means they will miss the playoffs.