After winning the Northeast Division a year ago, the Buffalo Sabres were quickly dispatched from the postseason in the first round by the Boston Bruins. As a result, the team enters the new season picked behind those Bruins in the division.
But there should be no underestimating the now-slugless Sabres. The aim to be one of the best defensive teams in the NHL yet again, with help from goaltender Ryan Miller, of course. Tyler Myers was a finalist for the Norris as a rookie last season, which would've looked great on his shelf next to the Calder Trophy for league's best rookie.
Will that be enough to get the Sabres back to the playoffs, though? With help from our Sabres bloggers at Die By The Blade, we look at Five Burning Questions plaguing the 2010-11 team.
1. Will Tyler Myers suffer from a sophomore slump?
Myers has shown that he can live up to lofty expectations as he did so when trying to make the NHL roster full time last season. Myers ended up leading the Sabres in ice time and played a full 82 game season and an added 6 playoff games, so fatigue through the season shouldn't be as much of an issue. The additions in the defensive corps can only help Myers this season and he should have as good of a season as he did last year.
2. Will Ryan Miller regress this season and can the Sabres handle it?
Ryan Miller had a fairytale regular season, statistics wise, with a .929 save percentage and 2.22 goals against average. Many people are predicting Miller to regress back to the mean of his stats this season, which accounts for a projected drop in GVT from 35.6 to 17.4. The Sabres will have to find away to makeup some of that lost production out of Miller if his game seems to falter.
3. Will Thomas Vanek score 40 goals this season?
Thomas Vanek has the potential to become a 50 goal scorer in the NHL. Unfortunately last season was a down year in production for Vanek, only producing 28 goals. The Sabres need a high-caliber, scare opponents every time he touches the puck, type of player and Vanek has that ability. The question is, will he be able to find the back of the net more effectively.
4. What will the Sabres do if Miller needs a break?
has been the Sabres backup for the past three seasons and has not played quality hockey during those seasons. The team seems to lose faith in Lalime when he is in net, causing the Sabres to have play Miller in upwards of 70-80 games a season. Jhonas Enroth
is an option in the Sabres AHL affiliate Portland, but it that depends on injury situations or a gross lack of faith in Lalime.
5. Have the Sabres accounted for their perceived lack of toughness?
Sabres fans deride management for putting together a finesse team that does not seem to want to get dirty in the corner. With the promotion of Cody McCormick
and the additions of Shaone Morrisonn
and possibly Zack Kassian
, that lack of toughness all but goes out the window. McCormick and Kassian are players that like to fly around and throw the body and along with Patrick Kaleta
, the trio can be a dominant force in forcing the opponent off the puck.
For everything you need to know about the Sabres, be sure to check out Die By The Blade.