Monday, September 30, 2013

Buffalo Sabres 2013-14 season preview Part-1. Goaltending and...

The charge of the youngins.

The Buffalo News' Bucky Gleason has every right to whine about the Buffalo Sabres and their long-time GM, Darcy Regier.

He has every right to veil his unprofessional hatred for Regier in snarky little snippets.

And he has every right to dredge up the past for an "I told you so moment" as well.

Mike Zigomanis and the fax machine. Michael Peca and Gleason's rumor that had him and a goalie headed to Atlanta for the #1 overall pick which would have been Ilya Kovalchuck. Chris Drury/Daniel Briere and Thomas Vanek.

All dredgeable stories that are at least six years old.

Blah, Blah, Blah.

Gleason, because Regier is still in charge, isn't very optimistic and with the aforementioned mistakes from a GM who's "inexplicably in charge" as a backdrop, he sees a future that will be the same as the past and it isn't pretty for him. "I suppose [the Sabres] kiddie corps could come together and turn things around this season," he writes, "but there's a greater chance for failure. Fans are left with little hope."

The "kiddie corps" he's referring to is a Sabres roster that will have two rookies on the back-end in Mark Pysyk and Rasmus Ristolainen while four rookies--Mikhail Grigorenko (#12 overall, 2012,) Zemgus Girgensons (#14, 2012,) Johan Larsson (#56, 2010) and 2012 free agent Brian Flynn will be up front.

The rooks will be joining three 23 yr. olds from the 2008 draft class--top-line center Cody Hodgson, top-six forward Tyler Ennis and top-pairing defenseman Tyler Myers.

Marcus Foligno (#104 overall, 2009) will start the year on IR, but will be back in the line-up soon thereafter.

That's nine players 23 and under. As the roster stands right now, even with Ryan Miller (33 yrs. old) and Vanek (30,) they will have one of the youngest teams in the league.

The rebuild is on and there's a new core rising.

"You wonder how we’ll look back on the Sabres 10 years from now," writes Gleason as he ends his article.

We'll let him set himself up for that. Maybe it will be of use when Gleason pens one of his self-righteous, "GM for a Day" fantasy pieces which he and his fellow knitting-society members relish so much.

For me, the future is now and although it could be painful early on, this team seems to be headed in the right direction.

That being said, here's Part-1 of the 2013-14 season preview.

As always we start in goal.

Miller's in goal. But, for how long?

Since emerging from the 2004-05 lockout, back-up goalies have come and gone while watching from the bench as Ryan Miller has been the unquestioned starter.

This year he is in the final year of his contract. Trade rumors were rampant at the deadline but have since subsided, and it would look as if Miller will be here until either a #1 goalie is felled by injury or the trade deadline comes and a team with a need for an upgrade in net for the stretch-run or playoff run comes calling.

There's never been a doubt as to Miller being a #1 goalie. The argument is whether or not he is elite.

And after nine seasons, it's still up in the air.

Miller has been outstanding in net for the team. Post 2004-lockout, he had the burden of covering for the "Ferrari" Sabres who flew up and down the ice saying, "catch me if you can."

Time and again Miller was exposed to a barrage of odd-man rushes and breakaways. Time and again his defensemen couldn't figure out how to defend and left the opposition with easy "layups" for goals.

It's a trend that continued--save for Miller's 2009-10 Vezina season--up until last season when Ron Rolston took over as head coach. Rolston has been stressing fundamentals and it would seem as if defending a two-on-one properly is beginning to take hold.

Despite his mental lapses (which have diminished over the years) and despite his stats (which don't tell the whole story) Miller can be counted on to both intimidate and stifle the opposition.

As long as Miller is in net, the team will always have a chance to win. Which is a fact that has kept the Sabres from securing a top-five pick.

Once again, Jhonas Enroth will be backing Miller up.

At one point, Enroth had a 12-game losing streak and it looked as if the clock struck midnight.

He came back and looks as if he not only could be a reliable back-up, but also could handle starting duties as well.

Although Enroth is on the smaller side he's very agile and moves in the crease very well. Perhaps most important, though, is his mental approach. He's got a very good head on his shoulders and isn't intimidated by too much. Mano-y-Mano in the shootout, Enroth is money.

Regardless of where Miller ends up, the defense will be the key to the success of the Sabres netminders. If the defense can tighten things up, and embrace "defense-101," Buffalo should have much better numbers than their league-worst 33.5 shots-against and their 22nd ranked, 2.90 goals-against average last season.

No matter who's in net.

No comments:

Post a Comment