The Buffalo Sabres have been one of the more successful teams coming out of the lockout. They went to the Eastern Conference Finals in the first two seasons after the lockout, nabbing the 2006-2007 President’s Trophy for best record in the league. Woooooooooo!! Being a Sabres fan was a GOOD TIME... until the Summer of 2007.
Suddenly, the Sabres were hemorrhaging captains. Briere? Flyers. Drury? Rangers. Numminen? Heart surgery. Suddenly the Sabres went from fierce competitors to floundering middle-of-the-packers with a bunch of “I’m not the most vocal guy in the room"s blindly leading the charge into mediocrity.
2007-2008 was a mostly forgettable season in which the Sabres took their fair share of lumps. The $50 million man, Thomas Vanek, signed to an INSANE offer sheet by Oilers GM Kevin Lowe and then matched by the Sabres in Summer 2007, was VASTLY underproducing until the second half. Ryan Miller, our rock in net for the previous 2 seasons, was giving up goals (particularly in the shootout) like they were perfume samples at the mall. Our defense was laughable and our best puck moving defenseman was sent to San Jose at the trade deadline.
Why in GOD’s name would you CHOOSE to be a Sabres fan? Well, let me tell you!
Goaltending: After a rocky 2007-2008 season in which Ryan Miller set a franchise record in games played (76), he has rebounded into his old form. In 2006-2007 he was a healthy 10-4 in shootouts, in 2007-2008? 4-7. Ouch. However! This season? Miller is already 6-1 in shootouts and has his familiar swagger back in net. I challenge you to find a goalie in the East who’s playing better in 2009.
Goals: Speaking of the shootout, did you know that the Buffalo Sabres roster boasts the player with the most game-winning shootout goals? That man is Ales Kotalik. Buffalo also boasts one Mr. Thomas Vanek, NHL All-Star and current #3 ranked goal scorer in the NHL. Who were the #2 and #3 point producers in the second half of the 2007-2008 season? Derek Roy and Jason Pominville. One of the best puck handlers in the NHL? Tim Connolly. One of the fastest skaters in the NHL? Maxim Afinogenov. Basically if you like zippy offense, you will like the Sabres.
Defense: In spite of what the dolts on Versus would have you think, the Sabres have not had solid defense for quite some time. If Dmitri Kalinin is in your top 4, you are in DIRE straits, friends. However, there has been a personnel shift on the blue line. Campbell, Kalinin and Pratt out. Rivet and Sekera IN, Teppo BACK. Rookie Chris Butler is really proving himself since being called up from Portland in December.Captaincy: The Sabres have had a rotating captaincy since Stu Barnes left the team in 2003. Our most successful tandem was Danny Briere and Chris Drury, with veteran Teppo Numminen wearing the “A”. When Drury and Briere left, everyone assumed Teppo would get the “C”.
(Thanks again, Anne.)