Blues GM v4
Joined: Nov 2016
As I've been thinking about my predictions for the upcoming season, I'm going to be bold and say that the Sabres make the playoffs this season as the #3 team in the Atlantic, behind Tampa and Toronto. A couple of reasons for that, and I'll explain in depth why I see Buffalo being playoff-bound.
Up front, we all know Eichel is a generational talent. Him and Ryan O'Rielly make for a fantastic 1-2 punch down the middle. I see Evander Kane putting it together for a full season, and I also think Sam Reinhart has his big breakout and gets in the neighborhood of 55-60 points. If Okposo recovers from his illness and plays 80 games, 60 points seems likely given his potential linemates. I'm a huge fan of Pominville, I think he'll be great returning with the Sabres. 50 points sounds about right for him. Matt Moulson is good for 30 points in a season, which is good contribution from the bottom six. If Larsson plays the entire season, he's another guy that could hit 30 points. I really like the forward group, especially having a 1-2 center punch far superior to that of Ottawa or Montreal (especially since Brassard is out for a while).
On the backend, I think they've made huge improvements. Acquiring Scandella seems like one of the more underrated moves of the offseason, I like the idea of him being a #2 guy behind Ristolainen. Beaulieu and McCabe should continue their development and be better this season. Antipin has some real upside to his game, and Gorges does more than fine as a 3rd pairing guy. I also see Phil Housley having a huge effect on their defense. I'm not saying he's going to turn their defense into that of Nashville, but I see massive improvements from them on both sides of the puck. I like the defense of Buffalo much better than Montreal's, especially their puck moving ability which is so important today. I think Ottawa's defense is slightly better than Buffalo's, but only because of that Karlsson guy. Heard he wasn't too bad.
In net, Robin Lehner is one of the most underrated goalies in the league. He's put up good numbers with a horrible defense in front of him. What happens this year when he gets much better defensive help? I think he'll solidify himself as Buffalo's goalie of the future without question. I don't see Anderson duplicating what he did last year, but Montreal obviously has the goaltending edge with Price. But Lehner doesn't have to be Price. An above average season from Lehner means that Buffalo is sitting pretty all of a sudden.
I'm really in love with this Sabres team. They seem like the team that people aren't going to consider legit yet, and shock everyone. All in all, I love what I'm seeing with them, and I'm one of few people who are going to predict Buffalo is in the playoffs for 2018.