2018 Buffalo Sabres Predictions with Futures Odds and Expert Picks
The Sabres are saying they plan to be this year's Colorado, and they might even believe it. After finishing dead last in the NHL two years ago with just 48 points, the Avalanche jumped all the way into the playoffs last year. The difference, though, is that the Avs had won their conference three years before and were reasonably competitive the two years after that. Buffalo hasn't made the playoffs in seven seasons and has been just plain awful the last five years. The hole is much deeper here. But after some great draft luck, a very active and positive offseason, and the continued development of some stars, there is actually hope in Buffalo. Probably not realistic playoff hope but hope for a future that doesn't involve always finishing last in their division.
Buffalo Sabres Offseason Moves
There are so many big things to get to, but we have to talk about the draft first. Rasmus Dahlin, a Swedish defenseman, was the big lottery prize. He's a beast of a player who could be a generational talent on the back end - the next Erik Karlsson. He was long anointed the top pick, but no matter how much attention he received he just kept getting better. He's special, and now he is a member of the Sabres. He will not only make this team, but he could step right onto the top pairing. Last year's top pick, forward Casey Mittelstadt, will also make the team. He scored five points in six games for Buffalo last year after his NCAA season ended, and he is ready. And 2016 first-rounder Alexander Nylander should be ready this year as well after playing in the AHL last season. It's not often a team gets to add a generational talent and two more Top 10 picks in the same year. No wonder there is hope.
Now the trades. There are three that matter. First, the team took advantage of their cap space. They let Pittsburgh clear $5 million in space by trading Conor Sheary and Matt Hunwick and had to give up only a fourth-round pick. Hunwick isn't exciting, but Sheary has played beside Sidney Crosby and has some complementary abilities. He's a nice asset to get for free. Next came the big deal. Ryan O'Reilly is a very good two-way center, but he didn't have a financial future in Buffalo. They had long been rumored to be trading him, and they finally did on July 1. He went to St. Louis, and in return they received a first- and second-round pick and a couple of interesting veteran centers in Vladimir Sobotka and Patrik Berglund. Neither is an offensive weapon, but as offensive depth they are valuable. And they added another center, young Tage Thompson, who could turn out to be the best of the three. And in the final trade, they rescued disgruntled winger Jeff Skinner from Carolina, giving up center prospect Cliff Pu and some picks. Skinner is only 26 and has three 30-goal seasons to his credit. Add it all up, and even with the loss of O'Reilly it was a positive offseason.
Free agency was much less dramatic, but there was one addition of note.
Carter Hutton was brilliant as the backup goalie in St. Louis last year,
leading the NHL in both save percentage and goals against average. He's 32
and has never been a starter, but Buffalo signed him for three years to
give him that chance. The list of stud backups who haven't made the
transition is long, but this is a good gamble.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Outlook
It's going to be all about chemistry with the Sabres. They have changed so many forwards that they will need name tags. Jack Eichel is a special center, and the task now is finding players that can best compliment him and finding other lines that work as well. It would be easy for this offensive unit to be worse than the sum of the parts if they can't figure it out, but the potential is certainly there. And on defense, the addition of a No. 1 defender shakes up everything as well. They have decent defense, but they have to figure out how to allocate it and make it work. A bad pairing can rob players of their worth in a hurry. And Hutton needs to take the step forward as well and learn to trust and work well with his defenders.
So, a lot of questions, but a lot of potential as well.
Buffalo Sabres Schedule
They start with four at home, but three are against real playoff contenders. Then they leave for a five-game trip, with four against strong Western teams. It will be very easy for this team to get off to a slow and painful start.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Futures Odds
At +10000 to win the Stanley Cup at Bovada , the team is tied with four other struggling teams and ahead of three more really struggling teams. It's lonely at the bottom. Buffalo had a league-worst 62 points last year, but oddsmakers are decidedly optimistic, setting the point total at 80.5.
Eichel is +3300 to win the Hart Trophy as MVP.
2018-19 Buffalo Sabres Predictions
Oddsmakers have faith in the team, and I kind of do as well. Trusting a team from Buffalo is typically only for fools, but this was a really good offseason, and it will have given the players confidence. It will not be a smooth climb, but this team is going to improve, and I would bet them to go "over" their total - though not anywhere near a playoff spot.
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