The Buffalo Sabres are coming off one of their worst seasons in their history, and missed the playoffs for the third straight year. They ended with a 21-51-10 record, 52 points. The offense was last with only 157 goals for and 25th in defense with 248 goals against. They ended 29th on the powerplay and 20th on the penalty kill. Starting early to mid-season, after a horrible start, they started tearing things down and rebuilding. It started with the firing of Ron Rolston, with Ted Nolan taking over. A change in the front office was made, as well.
The first major trade they made was Thomas Vanek for Matt Moulson, which I believe has worked out well for them. After giving him up to Minnesota for their playoff run, Buffalo grabbed him back in free agency this offseason. At the trade deadline, they made another blockbuster trade, sending elite goaltender Ryan Miller and captain Steve Ott to St. Louis for Jaro Halak and Chris Stewart. I believe Stewart is an upgrade offensively over Steve Ott, which is of course the biggest problem. He is also strong on the powerplay. They decided to put trust in Enroth, as they gave up Halak right after. Enroth has shown to be a capable starting goaltender, posting a 2.82 GAA and a .911 SV%. Of course, the recent hire of Arturs Irbe as the goaltending coach helps. Although his NHL totals don’t necessarily show it, he was a very good goaltender. They also let go of Erhoff, of course a very good offensive defenseman. After the regular season, they signed coach Ted Nolan to an extension.
The Sabres made some very solid moves this offseason to start the rebuilding process. First, they acquired Brian Gionta, who will bring some nice leadership to the group. He can bring 20+ goals with an 11.0% shot percentage and has been good on the powerplay in past seasons. He’s been a plus player in all but one season, also, which is something you need from a leader, especially someone who was captain of the Canadiens.
Josh Georges was a very good acquisition on defense. He is very sound defensively, reaching more than a +30 twice, and at least a +10 every season. He was a great asset to the Canadiens. Andrej Meszaros is also a solid defenseman and will be good for them. He is a plus player, also.
The Sabres are making a lot of progress this summer, and honestly, I don’t think a season can get much worse. The rebuilding process has a great start, but there is still much to be done for them. They are not a playoff team yet, but I believe they will be in a couple seasons, especially with the young talent of players like Reinhart and Zadorov. They will be very solid and physical defensively. Who knows, maybe they’ll draft Conner McDavid next year, too.