By Alex Bock
Photo by Chris Creamer. Licensed under Public Domain.
BUFFALO, N.Y. – The 2018-19 season for the Buffalo Sabres was a fall from grace. The Sabres finished 6th in the Atlantic Division, after peaking as the top team in the NHL, thanks in part to a 10 game winning streak in late November. To say the drop off was a disappointment would be an understatement. The team that had not made the playoffs since 2011 had given fans false hope early in the season, but could not continue the momentum the whole 82 games.
A lack of balanced scoring was one of the Sabres’ biggest problems, as captain Jack Eichel led the way with a team-high 82 points, while Sam Reinhart and Jeff Skinner each had 65 and 63 points, respectively. No one else on the sabres broke 50 points on the season. Results like that warranted the firing of head coach Phil Housley. He was replaced by Ralph Krueger, who became the 19th head coach in franchise history this offseason.
General Manager Jason Botterill did what he could in the offseason to address that problem. The resigning of Jeff Skinner (8 years, $72 million) was a major focus, as a became the sabres’ first 40 goal scorer since Thomas Vanek achieved the mark in the 2008-2009 season. The Sabres also acquired forward Jimmy Vesey from the New York Rangers in a trade.
Defenseman Henri Jokiharju was also acquired in a trade with the Chicago Blackhawks. He will look to strengthen the Sabres’ blueline along with former first overall pick Rasmus Dahlin, who finished third in voting last year for the Calder Trophy (given to the NHL’s top rookie.)
While the talent is certainly there among the marquee players, the key to the Sabres finding any success this coming season will be the production of depth players. Casey Mittelstadt will be an X factor for Buffalo as a young center who still has plenty of room to grow. Evan Rodrigues showed promise throughout last season, as well as Conor Sheary, who finished last season with 14 goals and 20 assists in 78 games.
Kyle Okposo adds a veteran presence to a very young, and have both proven to be reliable forwards. Former 3rd overall pick Zach Bogosian returns as a key player on the Sabres’ blueline, along with Jake McCabe.
The Sabres hit the road to play the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight at 7 P.M. and play the Montreal Canadiens on Oct. 9 at 7 P.M.