2013-14 Season Preview : Buffalo Sabres

We move down the ranks of the Atlantic Division to the team that signs John Scott's paychecks, the Buffalo Sabres.

2013 was yet another disappointing season for Buffalo hockey fans, so much so that long time head coach Lindy Ruff was fired after a 6-10-1 start. Ruff has been thought of as one of the top coaches in the league despite only making the playoffs four out of the last eleven seasons. The Sabres played better under interim head coach Ron Rolston, going 15-11-5. The Sabres removed the interim tag and Rolston will get his first full time gig behind an NHL bench.

Buffalo remained pretty quite in the offseason only making a few minor moves. They traded defenseman Andrej Sekera to the Hurricanes for Jamie McBain. Last week they gave Cody Hodgson, who they acquired from the Canucks for Zack Kassian last year, a six year contract extension.

I will be the first to admit I know very little about the Sabres because who the heck would willingly watch the Sabres?  I have called in for some help and today we will hear from Andy Boron from Die By The Blade.

This will be the first season since 1997 that Lindy Ruff will not be behind the Sabres bench. Where you sad to see Ruff go or was it time for a change? What do you expect from new head coach Ron Rolston?

A bit of both - Lindy will always be revered in Buffalo for his deep playoff runs, sense of humor, and deep devotion to the city of Buffalo. But after more than a decade behind the bench, it was probably long past time for a change. New head coach Ron Rolston is best known as a teacher of young men, who demands his players work hard in all areas of the ice. All that Buffalo fans want is a team that looks like it cares as much as we do, and if the Sabres can rise to that standard, they’ll slowly start to work their way back to respectability. If they continue to feature the slow starts and inconsistent play that highlighted Lindy Ruff’s last few seasons, however, they’ll spend another year in the basement.

Exactly how did Darcy Regier keep his job and what must happen this year for him to remain the Sabres general manager?

Most fans assume Darcy still has his job thanks to some combination of voodoo and/or incriminating photos of Terry Pegula. In reality, it's a combination of shrewd trading and look-good-so-far drafting over the past two seasons that has earned the GM more time to enact his revised master plan. Terry Pegula has been outspoken in his support of Regier, and if he were to be fired, last season's house-cleaning would have been the perfect time. I don't think Regier is in any real danger of losing his job this year, barring a catastrophic campaign.

Goaltender Ryan Miller will be an unrestricted free agent at season's end. Do you think he will be moved by the trade deadline or do you think he is still a part of the Sabres' long term plans? (And no, we will not give you Patrick Kane for him!)

The commenters on the Sabres Facebook page will be crushed. I'm sure the team will try to re-sign Miller, but I honestly don't think he has any interest in being part of a long rebuild. As far as a mid-season trade, I wouldn't be surprised by it, but I think it would take an injury to a Cup contender to make that a reality, and besides, the trade market for highly priced aging goaltenders doesn't seem to be thriving at the moment (hi, Roberto!)

Is Ville Leino still alive?

Yes, but things are so bleak in Buffalo that we wrote an article last week talking ourselves in to Leino being a key offensive contributor for the Sabres this season. This is what it's like being a Buffalo sports fan.

John Scott is great "locker room guy" and is a lot of fun to be around, but do Sabres fans get as upset when he is actually on the ice as Hawks fans did?

Only when Lindy Ruff gave him more minutes than uber-prospect Mikhail Grigorenko. The sad reality is that we didn't mind Scott too much because we didn't really have anyone better. So we'll go with the guy who's best talent is video-bombing post-game interviews.

Is it true that Steve Ott is a guy you hate until he is on your team, or is he always a penis?

There is no player more universally loved by Buffalo sports fans right now than Steve Ott. The entire league sees his visor licks, hears his chirping, and watches him do his best rat impression on the ice, where he generally resembles a kinda-talented douchebag. What they don't see are his incredibly honest and thoughtful interviews, his charity work, his little-kid enthusiasm, his awesome Twitter account, or his embracing of a too-often-bruised community that thrives on simply being appreciated. It's pretty telling that most Sabres fans want him to be our captain next season.

Does the new playoff format help or hinder the Sabres playoff chances and what needs to go right for Buffalo to return to the postseason?

I think it hurts them, but not for reasons you might think. Obviously, having Detroit in the division is a bummer, but the bigger bummer is that over the past few seasons, the Sabres have played horrendously against teams from the Sunshine State. They've been the type of team that plays to the level of their opponent, so for them to get back to hunting for the playoffs, the biggest thing they need to do is put forth a consistent, full effort every night. The other things that need to go right are having their prospects develop as expected, and using Terry Pegula's money to buy a time machine so we can fast forward to 2015.

Thanks again to Andy for helping us out. We will see the Sabres early in the year as they come to the United Center on October 12th. The Blackhawks will take part in Patrick Kane's homecoming in Buffalo on March 9th.