2017-18 Buffalo Sabres Predictions and Futures Odds Picks
The Sabres were really lousy last year - missing the playoffs for the sixth straight year and finishing last in their division after heading into the season entertaining at least minor playoff hopes. In response, they did what so many teams do in similar situations - they cleaned house. Out are GM Tim Murray and head coach Dan Bylsma. And in their place come new GM Jason Botterill, who learned from the best in the Pittsburgh organization, and new head coach Phil Housley, who spent the first eight years of his 21 years as a defenseman playing for Buffalo and has spent the last four years as an assistant in Nashville. So, they have robbed both the recent Stanley Cup finalists of leadership. They just have to hope that some of it rubs off here.
Buffalo Sabres Offseason Moves
The team was quite active, making a couple of trades and shuffling around a lot of free agents. None of it amounts to too much, though. They addressed depth and changed some guys around on the bottom of the roster, but when the most notable change is letting backup goalie Anders Nilsson leave for Vancouver and replacing him with Chad Johnson then you know it hasn't been a particularly impactful offseason via free agency. They did bring in Marco Scandella and Nathan Beaulieu via trades. Neither defenseman is elite, but they provide much-needed depth to a defensive corps that was terrible last year.
What stands out at this point is what hasn't been done yet. Star forward Jack Eichel, the heart of this team, heads into the season on the final year of his entry-level contract. He had 57 points in just 61 games last year, so he has unquestionably proven that he is a top-level player, and he is only going to get better. He was drafted second overall two years ago. Connor McDavid went one spot ahead of him and just signed a ridiculously huge contract. Leon Draisaitl went third in 2014 and also just got a massive new deal from Edmonton. Eichel is in line for a serious payday, and we can only hope that if it doesn't happen until after this season - which is quite likely - that it isn't a distraction or that it doesn't impact his game negatively. This team absolutely needs him at his very best to have any chance to be decent.
They got a very nice player in the draft in center Casey Mittelstadt, but
the American is at least a couple of years away from having an impact.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Outlook
Things were getting off the tracks in a hurry in Buffalo, so I give them credit for making the sweeping changes up top when they could have gotten away with not doing so. It brings a different and much better feel to the team. Eichel is a very special player, and Evander Kane was excellent offensively last year. The defensive personnel has been improved somewhat, and Housley coached the stellar Nashville defense, so his expertise and credibility will be a big boost as well. I'm still not sure they have enough scoring - especially at even strength, since they had the top power play in the league last year but were just 24th best in total goals scored - but they are moving in the right direction. They will likely struggle to be a playoff contender this year, but they are certainly on the right track - something that hasn't been easy to believe for several years in Buffalo.
Buffalo Sabres Schedule
They open at home against Montreal but then go on the road for five of their next six. That could go either way for them. Some teams like going on the road early because it allows them to eat together, build chemistry, and get ready for a long year. For many teams, though, the strain of playing away from home is just too much. If nothing else, we'll get an early sense of what kind of command Housley has on his new team and what we can expect from them this year.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Futures Odds
Bovada has Buffalo at +6600 to win the Stanley Cup, which has them tied with Carolina and ahead of six truly bad teams. BetOnline has the Sabres at +3300 to win the East, which puts them ahead of only Detroit and New Jersey. They are a long shot in the Atlantic as well, sitting at +1400, which is ahead of only Detroit. The season win total sits at 37. They won 33 games last year, so this marks a fairly significant expectation for improvement from oddsmakers.
2017-18 Buffalo Sabres Predictions
I lean towards the over on the win total, but not to the extent that I would bet any significant money on them. They still have a lot of work to do as an organization, but they have a strong core and made really good hires this summer. I am very cautiously optimistic, though they aren't a playoff team.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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