Could Buffalo Finish Above Carolina?
In the current NHL, when you hear ‘Buffalo’, you’re thinking dead last. Yes, Buffalo has gone into full rebuild mode, and at a good time with such a strong draft coming up. The Sabres have two second round picks in 2015, along with 3 first round pick.
The Sabres went out and added a bunch of role players in free agency, including Brian Gionta, Josh Gorges, Matt Moulson, Cody McCormick, and Andrej Meszaros. They also bought out Ville Leino and Christian Erhoff, bringing a whole new look to New York’s overlooked team.
With all that being said, the Sabres may, and that’s a big may, not be the NHL’s worst team next season. Hear me out, yes this may not come true, and yes this may be flawed – but Buffalo could surprise some people next year with some wins and could be a spoiler for many teams. No, they’re not going to make the playoffs. But there’s room to suggest they are making strides for improvement which starts next year. With a healthy Nuervirth/Enroth tandem, Buffalo is strong in net, and provides a whole new wildcard team in front of them. Their forward line-up could include: (note: neither line-up reflects what the team may actually present, just my prediction)
Moulson – Ennis – Stewart
Foligno – Hodgson – Stafford
Deslauries – Girgensons – Gionta
Flynn – McCormick/Dalpe – Ellis
with a defense of…
Gorges – Myers
Meszaros – McCabe
Weber – Ristolainen/Zadorov
The Sabres made huge strides this offseason, unlike their counterpart in the East, the Carolina Hurricanes, who’s team could look like this:
Skinner – E. Staal – Semin
Tlusty – J. Staal – Gerbe
Boychuk – Lindholm – Dwyer
Malone – Nash – (prospect)
Faulk – Sekera
Gleason – Hanisey
Liles – Harrison
Ward – Khudobin
The Hurricanes have tremendous depth in net, but Ward’s health is an issue. Other than that, their offense is nothing special, and the defense if average. The Hurricanes did little to nothing to improve the team, although I’d suspect they are not done for the offseason and will add another forward or two and possibly a defenseman for the roster. In comparison, the Sabres have it in offense, the defenses are both mediocre, and the Hurricanes have the most important goalie depth.
With everything being said, the NHL could play out like we suspected it all along. But it’s a league of change and surprises, so anything is possible, and anything can happen. The Hurricanes could very well surprise everyone and bring out a playoff winning team, or be at the bottom. The East and the league as a whole is getting stronger, however, and lackluster teams won’t cut it. It should be interesting to see what happens next season.