2019 Buffalo Sabres Odds to win Stanley Cup with Expert Predictions
It was certainly an odd season last year for the Buffalo Sabres. In November, on the strength of a 10-game winning streak, they were atop the NHL standings to the surprise of absolutely everyone. They were looking to end what was then a seven-year playoff drought, and it seemed like it was going to happen. But they won just 16 more times in their last 57 games, and they missed the playoffs by 22 points. They weren't even close. That cost coach Phil Housley his job and made it tougher to believe that this doomed franchise will ever get back on track. They have good ownership, a nice building, and good young talent, but they just can't seem to put things together.
Buffalo Sabres Offseason Moves
Ralph Krueger is the latest head coach of this organization. He probably shouldn't get too comfortable. The Sabres were long the model of coaching stability under Lindy Ruff, who was there from 1997 until 2013. But Krueger is the fifth head coach since then. Fortunately, he is used to taking over unstable franchises - he last coached in Edmonton, which gets a new coach with each new moon. Krueger is one of the most interesting guys in all of sports. He played junior hockey in my hometown of Calgary before a long pro career in Germany. After playing, he coached in Austria, led the Swiss national team into three Olympics, and scouted for the Hurricanes. After the 2010 Olympics, he joined the Oilers as an assistant coach and was elevated to head coach in 2012. That franchise is a circus, though, so he lasted only a year despite being the best coach they have had in a long time. He was then a special advisor to the gold medal-winning Canadian team at the 2014 Olympics and the coach of Team Europe in the 2016 World Cup. In between, in a truly odd and intriguing move, Krueger became the chairman of Southampton, the Premier League soccer club. He's very good at what he does, and he's a good hire here.
The team didn't go for a full overhaul by any means, but they did make some moves this offseason. The biggest was to sign Jeff Skinner to a new deal that will see him stay with the Sabres through his prime. He was a good addition to the team last year, so this is a sound move. And they traded for Jimmy Vesey from the Rangers, hoping that he can achieve the potential that made him a highly-sought-after college free agent. And they signed free agent Marcus Johansson, hoping that he could recapture the magic he had in his time in Washington, but couldn't find the last two years in New Jersey and Boston. Beyond that, they focused on improving the defense. They added Colin Miller in a trade with Vegas and will likely pair him with young superstar Rasmus Dahlin. And they traded forward Alexander Nylander, a 2016 first-round selection, to Chicago for 2017 first-round defenseman Henri Jokiharju. This was a deal I liked at the time, and really like now. All in all, it wasn't the flashiest of offseasons, but the team moved in the right direction.
The team had two first-round draft picks - their own and one from St.
Louis. With their own seventh pick, they picked forward Dylan Cozens, a
center I saw live a few times the last two years in the WHL and was wildly
impressed with. He's probably a year out, but there is serious upside here.
And at 31st they selected American defenseman Ryan Johnson, who is likely
to take longer than Cozens to make the show.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Outlook
The young talent here just keeps getting deeper. Rasmus Dahlin is going to be a superstar. Jack Eichel already is. Casey Middelstadt has massive upside, and so does Cozens. Victor Olofsson tore up the AHL last year and could be useful in the NHL this year. And the defensive unit is strong. Add it all up, and you have a team that could be really good at some point. And they have a better chance of making it to their potential under Krueger than most guys. But it's Buffalo, so we should probably expect disappointment. The challenge right now is that they are climbing, but teams like Florida, Carolina, and perhaps the Rangers are climbing a little faster.
Buffalo Sabres Schedule
The Sabres open up with games against Pittsburgh, New Jersey, Columbus, Montreal and Florida. That will quickly tell us where this team stacks up in a very tough Eastern Conference this year.
Buffalo Sabres NHL Futures Odds
The Sabres are at +5000 to win the Stanley Cup, which is a shorter price than just four other teams. At +2500 to win the Eastern Conference, they are ahead of just Detroit and Ottawa. They are ahead of those two teams to win the Atlantic Division as well, sitting at +3300. Their season win total is set at 83.5, with the "over" favored at -120. They are +190 to make the playoffs, compared to -230 to miss them.
2019-20 Buffalo Sabres Predictions
In situations like this, I wish that I could buy futures two or three years in advance. I don't think it will all be quite enough in this tough race this year, but this is a playoff team within the next three years - and quite probably as soon as next year. I am bullish over the mid- to long-term on the Sabres, but it will require patience.
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