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.  

4 Comments

jcamp28's picture

I think the final 4 in the east will be: phi, buf, tam, pitt

George Prax's picture

I don't really understand why people aren't giving credit to the Canadiens in the east this year. I get that you're a Sabres fan and that you're going to overrate your own group, and they are a good team, but Buffalo has a lot more to prove than the Habs this year with several players that many consider to be overpaid after this past free agency and many more that have a lot to prove after last season (and as Scott mentioned in his blog the other day, a questionable leadership group). I see the Habs and Sabres as equal teams. Both teams that will rely heavily on coaching and goaltending, both teams that will struggle if their high ticker players don't produce or get injured, but also both teams that will easily compete with the Bruins for the division lead.

jcamp28's picture

I think the Sabres have more emerging talent than the Habs do. The Sabres leadership group may not be the best or most vocal, but I think that's how Lindy Ruff likes his teams. I also like the Sabres d-corps better than Montreal's. They are very similar teams, I have to agree with that, but I think Buffalo is a cut above. A sleeper role could be beneficial for the Habs tho. With all eyes on Buffalo and Boston, the Habs could fly under the radar and steal the division. Time will tell. You do raise good points.

George Prax's picture

I'm not the biggest Martin fan but I've come to appreciate that he can coach a team when they're in desperate need for it, but you're right, Ruff is better. The defense depends solely on whether the Habs can stay healthy. If they can, it's equal IMO, if not, the Sabres have the edge. But the difference is the offense. Both teams will have trouble scoring at times, but the Canadiens have three full scoring lines and all four lines are capable of playing defense. Offense-wise I think they're capable of the same things if the Habs aren't a step ahead. I'm willing to admit the Sabres are a tad better, but in the grand scheme of things in the east, I think that means they'll be competing for the same spots, and that's somewhere between 3rd and 7th place.