Written by Conor Thompson
Hey hey Buffalo! I am happy to announce that hockey is back! Of course, just like everything that 2020 brought us, this upcoming NHL season will have changes. The first change will be a start date on January 13th. The biggest change will be the shuffling of the divisions. As many 716ers remember, the Toronto Blue Jays become the Buffalo Blue Jays due to the Canadian government not wanting their teams leaving the country. So what does this mean for the Sabres? Bad news. The Buffalo Sabres will be competing in the toughest division in the 56 NHL game season. So what should we expect to see from the boys in blue and gold this year?
The playoffs will be quite a challenge, especially due to the new divisions, but it can be achieved. What we should be looking for is if this team can put together a full strong season. For the past couple years, the Sabres would have a great month, then a terrible month, and in today’s NHL, that won’t lead to playing in the postseason. But this young core group of Sabres have been together for a few years now, so the hope is that it can come together this year.
Here are a few players to keep an eye on. The obvious one is Taylor Hall. By far the biggest Sabres free agent signing in years. Hall, a former MVP and 1st overall pick, shocked the hockey world by choosing to come to Buffalo by signing a 1 year $8-million deal. I expect Eichel and Hall to be playing along side each other and can’t wait to see what these stars can do.
Next we have a former 2nd overall pick in Sam Reinhart. Like Hall, Reinhart signed a 1-year $5.2-million contract. This means Sam will be looking for a big year to sign a long-term contract. Sam has always been a solid player since he joined the Sabres, but with this being a contract year for him, look for Reinhart to be an even bigger difference maker.
The biggest question for the Sabres is goaltending. Buffalo chose not to sign a proven number one starter in free agency. Instead they’re hoping Linus Ullmark is their guy. Ullmark has improved every year since he first joined Buffalo. In his early days he was regularly chasing the puck, but last year he was more relaxed and waited for the puck to come to him. At the age of 27, this will be the year the Sabres will find out if they have a true number 1 netminder.
The Sabres for once received a bit of luck years ago by winning the draft lottery and selecting Rasmus Dahlin. Last season was Dahlin’s sophomore season and he showed great improvement. While his offensive talent is always on display, last season he looked to be a much more experienced defenseman. In the 2019 offseason, the Sabres traded their former first round pick Alexander Nylander to the Chicago Blackhawks for Henri Jokiharju and I doubt the Sabres could be any happier. Jokiharju quietly had a great season and gained the approval of coach Ralph Kruger. The Sabres are hoping for these two young defenseman to continue to bring their game to the next level.
The Sabres will be hoping for some of the Bill's magic to grace them as there a lot of questions for our Sabres to answer this year. But I think I speak for all of us that everyone cannot wait for 2021 to start!