Where do the Sabres Stand Vs. the Rest of the East?
It seems there are about three tiers of teams in the Eastern Conference. Which grouping do the Sabres belong in? Not an easy question, but given Lindy Ruff's steady hand, and the recent bolstering of the roster they should be expected to be in the serious contenders group. Let's look at how the Sabres stack up against the top tier teams in the east.
Best place to start is with the defending conference and world champion Boston Bruins. These teams are similarly built: good defense corps , solid group of forwards with the real star being the goaltender. On paper the Sabres have closed the gap by significantly upgrading the defense and adding skill up front. Head to head these teams will have 6 great battles in the regular season this year. Hard to say which team is better.
Many so called experts are predicting the Penguins to make some serious noise, if not win their fourth Stanley Cup. They will be strong. The Sabres will struggle with the Penguins in head to head battles. However, the Sabres back down from no one. It would not be much of a stretch to say that the Sabres can keep up with and compete with the Penguins.
While we're in the Atlantic division another top tier eastern team is the Flyers. While one could say that the Sabres were very close to them last year and having signed Ville Leino (who hurt the Sabres in the playoffs last year) that the Sabres have overtaken the Flyers. Not so fast, however, the Flyers made some wholesale changes and their youth movement combined with some high quality veterans will make the Flyers a strong contender. Let's not forget that Chris Pronger was not healthy for their playoff run. The guy is a beast. Giroux is a magician and looks to be gaining chemistry with shoe in hall of famer Jaromir Jagr, who can still play at a very high level. This being said, the Flyers have been much better than the Sabres on paper in the past, only to lose to them in the first round of the playoffs.
Washington has upgraded their goaltending, will this be the year they make a deep playoff run? Doubtful, they haven't yet and they haven't shown any new dimensions.
Tampa on the other hand..... they're tough.
The six teams will all fight for their division (Pitt, Phi, Bos, Buf, Was, TB) the Rangers and either the Devils or Canadiens will be 7 and 8th seeded. The same (top) six teams will fight for the conference crown.