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30 Teams in 30 Days - Buffalo Sabres Written by habsfan93 - September 12th, 2009

Over the course of 30 days, yours truly is going to take a look at each team in the league, examine their off-season moves, assess the biggest issue facing the team, highlight a player or two to watch for, and finally give an outlook on the season. 

Next up, the Buffalo Sabres.

Buffalo Sabres
Season 5: 36-34-10-2 (6th East, 3rd Northeast)
GM: Ludo (3rd Season)

Currently Projected Season 6 Roster:
(Incoming Player in Bold, Rookies in Italics)

Brind'Amour - Toews - Alfredsson
Latendresse - M. Koivu - Afinogenov
Gagner - Nylander - Knuble
Winchester - Laperriere - Cole

Markov - Pitkanen
Malik - Staal
Carle - Spacek

Brodeur
Price

What They Did In The Off-Season:

Coming off a terrific Season 4 in which the Sabres made the playoffs for the first time ever in style by winning their division and advancing to the Conference Finals, Season 5 was a bit of a letdown. The Sabres spent the better part of the season at the bottom of the standings, struggling early on, and forcing GM Ludo to try all his magic tricks to turn around the team. He did though, and the Sabres went on an end of the year run, surging ahead of a number of teams, and finishing a respectable 6th. While no one was looking, GM Ludo also pulled an incredulous feat, and found himself with 5 first-round draft picks. A team, already renowned for its core of young players, was about to get that much deeper. And wouldn't you know it, four of the five picks landed in the top 14, as Ludo nabbed speedy forward Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson, and highly touted defencemen Ryan Ellis, Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Dmitry Kulikov. With his 5th pick, at #25, Ludo chose G Mikko Koskinen. Ludo would add an additional pick in the 6th to pull off one of the better drafts during draft week.

The Sabres escaped the retirement bug pretty much unscathed - one of the only teams to do so. The only significant loss was defenceman Phillippe Boucher, who leaves a gaping hole at the #3-4 spot on defence. But with the depth of the Sabres, this was not hard to replace and his lack of discipline will not be missed. Ludo got to work quickly on making sure the young talent he had before the draft didn't go anywhere as young centres Mikko Koivu and Jonathan Toews saw their contracts expire this summer. Toews, fresh off a rookie season in which he posted a 65 points, and a terrific playoffs, was determined to cash in. He signed a 2-year, $3,100,000 deal and helped set the standard for other top RFA rookies. Koivu, who spent the year in the minors last year, clearly owes his agent a raise, as he cashed in on a 3-year, $3,750,000 deal that carries some high expectations with it. The Sabres believe that a 1-2 punch of Toews and Koivu down the middle is the key to a winning team and they will be heavily counted on to produce in Season 6.

GM Ludo then got to work on the trade front to make sure the supporting cast was the best they could be. With Mikko Koivu signed long-term, the writing was on the wall for older brother Saku Koivu, who was traded to San Jose for a package of prospects and draft picks. I'm not sure how Saku feels about this, but if there wasn't a sibling rivalry before, you can bet there is one now. Next up, Thomas Vanek was traded to the Maple Leafs for blueliner Marc Staal, as well as prospects Mikael Backlund and Jakob Silfverberg, and star netminder Evgeni Nabokov was traded to Pittsburgh for Pierre-Marc Bouchard and a pair of first-rounders. Andrej Meszaros and Dustin Penner were moved for Guillaume Latendresse. Adrian Aucoin shipped out for picks and Martin Skoula. To a casual observer, it might seem as though BUF was heading into a rebuilding stage, shipping off veteran stars for young players and prospects. But not the case in Buffalo. All these deals were building to a startling conclusion.

Not convinced that Carey Price is ready yet to handle full-time goaltending duos, GM Ludo put together a package mainly consisting of offseason acquisitions (Bouchard, Backlund, Teubert, Skoula, a 1st rounder, etc.) and shipped it off to Tampa Bay for franchise goaltender, and future Hall-of-Famer, Martin Brodeur. Brodeur is expected to fill the gap while Price develops into a full-fledged #1. With a 184-126-37 career record, and a 2.59 career GAA, the former Vezina Winner is among the best in the CMHL every year, and he instantly makes this team a front-runner in the Eastern Conference. Rival GM Stajanfan of the Leafs expressed his angst best at the acquisition: "Anyone else but Buffalo!!! Why does Brodeur have to go THERE?". It seems the rest of the East is not as excited as Ludo about the Sabres prospects for Season 6.

Biggest Issue Facing the Team:

Salary. This team isn't done before October. With the Brodeur deal, and the recently completed Brind'Amour deal, they are going to find themselves several million dollars over the Salary Cap. If the Sabres can figure out their salary issues though, these isn't much as to fault here. The most likely candidate to go should be Erik Cole. At over two and half million a year, he is a very expensive 4th liner who doesn't provide any particularly attractive skill other than being a big hitter. Dumping his salary would go a long way towards alleviating the cap problems in Buffalo.

Player To Watch:

Guillaume Latendresse - Lats has quietly put up back to back 55+ point seasons on a much less deep Dallas team. In Buffalo, playing on a line with a premier centre like Mikko Koivu, he should easily eclipse his prior career highs, and could be a threat to hit the 80 point mark.   

Season 6 Outlook:

There is no question that Buffalo has to be considered a favorite to dominate the East. They have an imposing lineup with firepower, a terrific defensive corps, and one of the best goalies in the league. GM Ludo was inducted into the Hall-of-Fame this summer, and for good reason - he puts a top product on the ice every year, no questions asked.

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Comments:

Haha, nice quote you threw in there!! What an awesome team with an insane future in Buffalo, the best two teams in the East (Ottawa, Buffalo) are in the Northeast division. Doesn't bode well for Montreal and Toronto!!

Written By: StajanFan (2009-09-13 01:15:04)

Thanks a lot for the comments and impressive resume. You are spot on on every points.

As you might predict, the cap isn t really an issue since both spacek and erik Cole were brought in to replace players next season (i m expecting a resurgance form Cole in carolina and spacek will be top 2) The key trade here was Kovalev for brindy, which saves the diff for a call up salary.

We are still in the market for a #6 dman with pro skills, but cheap at around 1M to make everything work.

Exciting times ahead in Buffalo!

Written By: Ludo (2009-09-13 08:36:33)

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