Friday, October 10, 2008

Ranking the top 27 Buffalo Sabres

Last season I listed the "top 26 Sabres" before the season began. With a new season starting tonight a new ranking is in order. These are based upon the importance each player brings to the team for the coming season. As a result long term potential for anything beyond this season is not counted, also these are not strictly based on the talent each player has, but also his importance to the team. As such the goalies are not really comparable, but thrown in regardless because I did so last time.

The last list was fairly accurate, but overestimated Connolly's ability to stay healthy and did not give enough respect to Spacek. This year's list is as follows...
  1. #1 Jason Pominville - Although ultimately not named captain, he will still be looked to lead this team. How his stats end up is highly dependent on who he plays with, but he will need to be counted on to play a full game every day of the season.
  2. #2 Derek Roy - Number one last year, the Sabres need to count on Roy again this season. As the center for Buffalo's top line, he is likely to touch the puck more than anyone else on the team.
  3. #3 Craig Rivet - New to town Rivet will be expected to take care of things on defense. This is where Buffalo needs help, and if Rivet can perform then things will go much better for Buffalo this year. Earning himself the role of captain only heightens his expectations.
  4. #4 Ryan Miller - As the goalie he is obviously the most important player on the team, and will need to be solid in net for the Sabres to have any chance. If he can get good in the shootout again, that would earn another three of four wins that the team missed out on last season.
  5. #5 Thomas Vanek - Buffalo's scoring machine had a disappointing season last year. While he still scored alot of goals, he was not playing both ways as much as he needed to, and went from leading the league in plus minus to ending the year minus four
  6. #6 Henrik Tallinder - Will be relieved with the addition of Rivet and Numminen, but will still need to be the team's shut down defender.
  7. #7 Toni Lydman - Same story as Tallinder. These two need to guarantee no goals against.
  8. #8 Jochen Hecht - A captain for most of last season and an alternate this year, Hecht will be counted on to continue leading this team. While he doesn't have the biggest offensive numbers he is a very solid two way player.
  9. #9 Teppo Numminen - Just like last year's list defense is extremely important. Numminen is a very consistent and reliable defender for the team. His only limiting factor is he is not likely to get lots of ice time, and isn't a huge help when it comes to scoring.
  10. #10 Paul Gaustad - Out for the start of the season he is still one of the hardest working players on the team. Also has a history of coming back early from injuries so may not be out all that long.
  11. #11 Jaroslav Spacek - Proved last season that he actually can play. If his pairing with Rivet works well, he could see alot of ice time and have a very good year.
  12. #12 Patrick Lalime - Last season nobody had any confidence in the backup goaltender forcing Miller to be overworked. Last season Lalime earned himself a winning record as the backup for a team that failed to make the playoffs. If he can be a reliable backup once again, then Miller should be able to be better off when he does play.
  13. #13 Patrick Kaleta - Should see more games this year even if playing time is still limited. He is a real difference maker on the team, and is defensively responsible enough to be counted on.
  14. #14 Maxim Afinogenov - May very well prove that last year was a fluke. Has the ability to play very well, and if he gets in sync with Roy and Vanek has the possibility to have a great year. Also is in danger of getting traded mid-season though.
  15. #15 Ales Kotalik - He hasn't always been providing the offense needed, and needs to return to his backhand in the shootouts. If he can keep scoring there, that will give Buffalo some free points in the standings.
  16. #16 Tim Connolly - Will probably miss a large number of games due to injury, but is still a great talent when he is on the ice. If he can stay healthy it would give Buffalo a huge advantage up the middle.
  17. #17 Andrej Sekera - Looked very good at the end of last season but will have to continue to play well to prevent losing his job to Paetsch or Weber. Is likely to be part of the third defensive pairing with Numminen.
  18. #18 Adam Mair - The bedrock of the fourth line will continue in that role. He sees limited ice time, but is usually pretty good when he is out there.
  19. #19 Daniel Paille - Paille is a player that has the potential to be good, but still has yet to really prove it. He still needs to find his spot on the team.
  20. #20 Drew Stafford - Like Afinogenov he needs to prove that last season was a fluke. He showed much promise in his rookie year, but fell off from that somewhat. If he can get scoring again, it would be a huge asset to the team, and if he plays on a line with Roy and Vanek he better be able to contribute heavily.
  21. #21 Nathan Gerbe - starting the season on the minors, Gerbe should figure to be the first call up, and be an excellent player for Buffalo. He won the NCAA frozen four last year with Boston, and has proven himself to be able to play very good hockey. If Buffalo has any long term injuries, Gerbe will be needed to contribute.
  22. #22 Clarke MacArthur - With some NHL experience he may get a call up before Gerbe does. While he has some very good games last season he needs to do so more consistently if he wants to make the NHL full time.
  23. #23 Mike Weber - He will start the season in the AHL, but proved to be good when paired with Sekera at the end of the last season. Despite being more talented will probably be behind Paetsch in the depth chart.
  24. #24 Nathan Paetsch - Currently the seventh defenseman he will need to rebound from last season which was a bit of a disappointment for him. Still it is highly unlikely that the team will go all year without any injuries so he should see some playing time.
  25. #25 Tim Kennedy - Fresh out of college he will not see much time in the NHL this season, but looks to be a very good player down the road. If he does get called up count on him to look impressive.
  26. #26 Andrew Peters - Will have a hard time justifying his roster spot with so much talent in the team's prospects. Furthermore with Kaleta playing a more prominent (and well rounded) role Peters may no longer really have a spot on the team. In fact new Sabre and captain Craig Rivet is probably even a better fighter than Peters is.
  27. #27 Matt Ellis - not really sure why he is on the team. If he couldn't make the cut with the Las Angles Kings there is no reason to believe that he deserves to be here.

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