Notable players who raise interesting questions for this season
The Buffalo Sabres kickoff the regular season on Oct. 5 at the KeyBank Center in downtown Buffalo when they play the Montreal Canadiens. Before the team takes ice, there are a few players that bring up noteworthy questions that need to be examined.
Matt Moulson LW
Big Question: Can Matt Moulson shake his recent struggles?
Last year Moulson rarely played on the top two lines, averaging 11:36 of total ice time across 81 games last season. This, despite having the tied sixth highest average annual value (AAV) on the team. Moulson has the potential to be a dominant left winger that the Sabres are in need of, but if his recent trend of underachievement carries over from last year, expect to (rarely) see him skating on the fourth line this season.
Nathan Beaulieu and Marco Scandella, D
Big Question: Can Beaulieu and Scandella live up to the heightened expectations?
Both were acquired in trades this offseason in an effort to revamp the Sabres defensive unit that finished in the bottom third of the league in number of Goals Against (231) and gave up the most Shots Against Per Game out of anyone in the NHL (34.3). Beaulieu and Scandella, from the Montreal Canadiens and Minnesota Wild respectively, are slated to have an increase in playing time from last season under new head coach Phil Housley this season.
Zemgus Girgensons, C/LW
Big Question: Is this season make or break for Girgensons?
Ever since his all-star season in 2015 in which he scored 30 points (15 G, 15 A), Girgensons’ production has been trending downward. However, he’s optimistic about what the new coaching staff brings.
“It’s new coaches and new management, so I think it’s a fresh start for everyone. You can’t come in thinking you have a [roster] spot. You have to prove in practice and off the ice.” Girgensons said on Sabres Now (9/17/17). Girgensons is under contract for the next two years, but if his production diminishes for what would be the 4th consecutive season, then it might be time to move on from the Latvian Locomotive.
Josh Gorges, D
Big Question: Where does Gorges fit into the defensive unit?
Last season, Gorges was an assistant captain playing in 66 games and averaging 18:27 of ice time per game. With the acquisitions of Beaulieu, Scandella and Viktor Antipin from the KHL in Russia, it’s possible that Gorges could prove useless. Housley’s defensive strategy favors young, fast players that can e ectively move the puck up the ice, which doesn’t play to Gorges’ age (33) and skillset. Gorges could become the odd man out on the blueline this season.