Tyler Myers may be the next big thing for the Buffalo Sabres.

Literally.

Myers, a 6-foot-7 defenseman, made the Sabres roster Wednesday as final cuts were announced to narrow the team to just 23 players.

The move comes a day after it was announced that defenseman Toni Lydman has a hand injury.

The opening space on the already-packed Sabres defensive unit was granted to the 19-year-old Myers while Mike Weber, another promising young defenseman, was sent down to Portland of the AHL.

Myers, a rookie, is allowed to play nine games in the NHL before the Sabres need to make a final decision.

The organization has two options: keep him in the NHL for the remainder of the season or return him to his junior club, the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL.

With the injury to Lydman, the Sabres are able to prolong the decision, which otherwise would have been made by 3 p.m. Wednesday according to league rules.

Even though nothing is certain (Myers still might not make the opening lineup for Saturday’s game against Montreal) the young blue-liner, who has never played in an NHL game, is excited for the opportunity.

"It feels really good," Myers said. "They still have that window to decide but I'm excited to be here."

Fans also seem to believe Myers is ready for the big time. A Buffalonews.com poll showed that 88 percent of fans who voted think Myers should be in Buffalo, not Kelowna, this season.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

So what if your favorite hockey team has...

...missed the playoffs two straight years?

...not made a splash in free agency for even longer?

...let not one but TWO team captains walk away without compensation?

...never quite shaken the identity of the red-headed stepchild of a city that sometimes seems cursed, and not just sports-wise?

Does that mean another wasted season?  Fear not, Sabres fans.  There is reason to not be ashamed for being optimistic.  All you need to enjoy a spot in the playoffs is affirmative answers to the following questions.

 

1) Can Tim Connolly stay healthy?

Say what you might about a player who was received in trade for the incredibly-popular Michael Peca way back when...when he's on the ice, the man can play. 

Forty-seven points in 48 games translates into team-leading scoring for this squad over a full season, and satisfies the one thing that Buffalo has lacked since the heady days of the early nineties—a bona fide game-changing talent who can both score and feed his teammates.

 

2) Will there be some defensive standouts this year?

There's no denying that the Sabres are pretty solid from a defensive standpoint...nothing flashy, nobody with the reputation of a Pronger or Chara, but nobody who stands out as being that far below average, either.

Problem is, the unit lacks identity.  There's no one player or pairing for whom any opponent really needs to specifically game-plan for, nor anyone whom any opposing player fears facing.

A possible person to fill that mold would be rookie Tyler Myers.  Most readers won't need updates about his size or his skill as demonstrated in juniors last year, so I'll skip that. 

What I won't gloss over is the fact that his is—if he makes the squad out of training camp—the first face that would be instantly recognizable to any knowledgeable hockey fan to play for this defense since a certain gold-medal-winner's last game for Buffalo in the 1992-93 season.  And that could make a big difference in the season's outcome.

It would also be nice to see Mike Weber returning to the amazing form he and partner Andrej Sekera showed down the stretch two years ago.  Those two consistently outperformed anything Tallinder and Lydman did together last year; only problem was, they did it in the second half of a season already lost to injuries and bad judgement. 

But if they can find that spark again, and Myers plays to anything close to his potential, that would make for a fairly formidable—and young—defense.

 

3) Will Vanek and Roy continue their upward climbs?

Before getting blasted by a puck to the face (while killing a penalty, mind you), Thomas Vanek was only the league leader for most of the season in goal-scoring.  Derek Roy was coming into his own as a playmaking center, competent on defense, and a gifted playmaker on offense.

If their mutual improvements continue, the Sabres have a pretty good one-two punch up front.  And if they remain on different lines, that does make them tougher to defend against.

 

4) Will the supporting cast actually, you know, support?

Much of last year's disappointment was due to injuries (Miller, Vanek) which no one can predict.

But at least as much was due to the fact that a number of players identified as being either the "young core" or the "veteran leadership" of the team (in other words, the role players) disappeared for long stretches.  Some even disappeared for the entire season (I'm looking at you, Jochen Hecht).

Jason Pominville?  Drew Stafford (even allowing for that one sick goal)?  Where did you go?  And will you be back?

 

5) Is Patrick Lalime healthy enough so that Lindy Ruff doesn't ride Ryan Miller into the ground?

There's no doubting Lalime is a quality goaltender.  And usually, goalie skills don't fade quite so dramatically with age as his seemed to do last year. 

But then word came out that he had to have surgery on both hips in the offseason; if he's recovered and healthy, it's hard to fathom that Ruff won't give Miller a few extra breaks during the (Olympics-condensed) season.

Of course, he may do that anyway if Lalime blows enough early games to make playing Miller against the cream of the NHL crop a moot point.

 

6) Will the team play with more energy from the opening faceoff every game?

This was the thing that gnawed at more fans' insides than anything else last year, the number of times a "lack of effort" was cited as a reason for losing.

I, personally, love the suggestion (might've been given by Bucky Gleason in The Buffalo News) that, for every game, Ruff starts Adam Mair, Patrick Kaleta, and Paul Gaustad, because they (a) never take a shift off and (b) are always getting under the opposition's skin.

They're the hardest working bunch on the squad, game in and game out.  They never play recklessly, all have good hockey sense...what's to lose?

And I would pay good money I don't have to see those three line up at the opening drop against Alfredsson and Spezza.  Especially if Chris Neil was their linemate.

 

7) Can Darcy Regier make a decent trade?

While this one is the most likely "no" answer out of all the above, there is at least a substantial precedent.  For a brief period (commencing at the 2003 trade deadline), Regier was the slickest huckster in the league bar none for his fleecing of the Coyotes in the deal that sent Daniel Briere to Buffalo for Chris Gratton.

Regier has a fantasy-GM's worst nightmare, though.  A roster stocked to overflowing with B and C-grade players who need to be moved because they're too good for Portland but not good enough to crack Atlanta's starting lineup.

There are 16 forwards in camp competing for 12 spots (plus one or two press box attendees), and the defensive side of things isn't any better.

If Myers and Weber and Sekera and Chris Butler (who was the Sabres' best defenseman for long stretches last season) all perform to expectations and potential, who sits?  Can't be the captain, Rivet.  Lydman?  Tallinder? 

We're already up to seven, with only six likely to be active night-to-night, and we haven't even mentioned Steve Montador (whose signature isn't even dry yet on his contract), Marc-Andre Gragnani (another "prospect with upside" who has pretty much gotten all he can reasonably hope for out of the AHL), and Nathan Paetsch (who, by virtue of his two-way play and ability to line up on the wing as well, reminds this writer of Coach Ruff in his prime).

And then there's the logjam at forward.  Assuming lines like Vanek-Connolly-Pominville, Hecht-Roy-Stafford, MacArthur-Gaustad-Grier, and Mair (when healthy, otherwise Moore)-Ellis-Kaleta, who do you cut or send down?  Nathan Gerbe?  Tim Kennedy?  Where does Daniel Paille fit in?

If I were Regier, I would find one (or two!) of those squads who always seem to have one or two star-quality players, but not enough depth to compete.  See if they'd go for a two-for-one or three-for-one deal, and turn some of this excess depth into a more tangible asset. 

One can't score from the press box, after all.

This is a decently-talented young team.  I believe that Regier and Ruff are right to let most of these guys grow up together; it's a solid business model to lock up your core to long-term deals when they're reasonably cheap; the heavy lifters on this roster aren't yet quite at their athletic/physical peaks. 

There is a lot of room for improvement, and surprise, amongst this bunch.

At the same time, sometimes confidence grows from the other direction.  One move that the local media could point to as "ambitious" could turn this team from a worthy opponent into the guys nobody wants to play, all because a concrete sign was seen from above that ownership and the coaches believed so much in this team that they had to make sure it succeeded.

 

8) Will someone grab this team and make it their own?

This flows somewhat naturally from the last.  There's no "voice of the franchise" other than Lindy Ruff, who, despite being a really good coach, isn't exactly the most compelling face for a team's identity.

I've been following the Sabres for nigh on 30 years, and I don't think I could describe Regier to a police sketch artist to save my life.  And there is no one player (or two, hearkening back a couple of years) to whom all the rest of the roster—and, as importantly, the fans and media—grant deference.

Once upon a time, we had Drury-Briere.  We had Michael Peca and Dominik Hasek.  We had LaFontaine-Mogilny.  And before that, Perrault and Foligno and...well, you get the point. 

Whose team is this?

Who is going to grab this squad in the locker room and refuse to lose?

That is the greatest unanswered question about this year's Buffalo Sabres, and the one that probably will make the most difference in the long run.

Any decent team can overcome the problems presented by a couple of "no" answers to the first seven questions I've posed.  But there are no teams who can win without a real identity.  If this last question gets answered favorably, it could be an awfully long time til the offseason.

Let's hope someone takes the reins and refuses to let go.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Yesterday we examined the Boston Bruins.

While the Bruins do have a question to answer in who replaces Phil Kessel and how successful they are, we also have to consider that they were always planning for this a little bit anyhow—after all, they had to be prepared that he was going to be out until November, so they can just extend the contingency plan.

The rest of the Northeast has questions; big questions. The Sabres are just one of those teams with questions and whoever answers them is going to lay claim to second in the division.


Buffalo Sabres

2008/09 Record:
41-32-9, 91 points, 10th in East.

Additions:
Mike Grier—F (FA), Cody McCormick—F (1 year/$550k), Joe DiPenta—D (1 year/$550k), Steve Montador—D (2 years/$3.1 mil).

Subtractions:
Jaroslav Spacek—D (FA), Mikael Tellqvist—G (FA), Maxim Afinogenov—F (FA), Dominic Moore—F (FA), Teppo Numminen—D (Retired).

The Buffalo Sabres are the lost sister in the Northeast Division.

While everyone talks about the Boston Bruins’ defense of their division crown, the Ottawa Senators’ potential rebound goalie Pascal Leclaire, the Toronto Maple Leafs’ re-vamped…well…team, and the Montreal Canadiens’ full remodel, the lack of activity seemingly left the Sabres in the dust.

The Sabres, however, are not only in a position to better themselves from within, but this year may very well be the year a ton of young talent makes its mark.


The Miller’s Wife Is Churnin’ the Butter…

The phrase "winner" is tossed around when people describe NFL Quarterbacks. In fact, on Sunday, Brian Billick was talking about how San Fransisco 49ers QB Shaun Hill may not pile up the stats, but he's a winner—which is what matters in the end.

Ryan Miller is a winner.

Last season, if not for an ankle injury that derailed his month of March, Miller could've thrust the Sabres into the playoffs by himself.

With just one win in those 13 games he missed, Miller could have posted his third-straight 35+ win season. To put that in perspective, only two other goalies (Miikka Kiprusoff and Henrik Lundqvist) currently hold that streak, while Miller ranks behind Kiprusoff (166), Martin Brodeur (154), Roberto Luongo (150), Marty Turco (144), and Lundqvist (142) for wins (he has 140) post-lockout.

Not bad company, eh? Expect more of the same out of Miller this year, as he's stayed fairly consistent throughout his career: Year-to-year, his goals-against average has never moved more than .15 away from the previous year's total, while the 12-point jump last year (.906 to .918) is the biggest jump ever in his save percentage (previous years it's been within .05, which, admittedly is a little high).

Behind Miller, it'll be a battle between Patrick Lalime and Jhonas Enroth.

While Lalime brings a veteran presence to the Sabres' backup role, his effectiveness has diminished since his soul was crushed by Joe Nieuwendyk in the playoffs. The highly-touted Swede, Enroth, had a great year in the AHL last year and even if he can't steal away the backup job, starting in the AHL will have him fresh and ready to come up in case of injury or back up next year.


On a Defense That Lacks Offense…

The Sabres come into this season lacking one big thing: a solid, top-pairing, puck-moving defenseman.

With the loss of Jaroslav Spacek, the highest-scoring carry-over from last season is Craig Rivet. While Rivet does provide the Sabres a solid, experienced defender to help bring the youngsters along, Rivet has just one season of 30+ assists (30 in 2007-'08 in San Jose) and just three seasons of seven or more goals.

To provide that offensive presence, it'll be a slew of youngsters trying to bridge the gap.

The most experienced of which is Andrej Sekera. Sekera not only has no reservations about shooting the puck, but he's also very good at moving the puck. He's shown consistent improvement at the NHL level and with a full season, he could reach 30 points. Sekera just needs to remember about staying responsible in his own end.

QMJHL graduate TJ Brennan may not be able to rack in 30- or 40-assist seasons, but the New Jersey native carries a heavy shot from the point and will help Buffalo try to maintain last year's seventh-ranked power play.

Another highly-touted offensive defenseman is Tyler Myers, however Myers is trying to jump straight from the WHL (He had 42 points in 58 games last year), so he'll definitely have to impress. His ability to move the puck around the ice is definitely something that the Sabres need and might not be able to overlook if he can make the transition.

Marc-Andre Gragnani's AHL experience may help him beat out Myers, especially because it's difficult to continue throwing a defenseman in the minors with this career line: 154 games played, 23 goals, 80 assists, 103 points, and nine power play goals. Granted the -15 rating (although he had a 14 point improvement to -1 last year) is a little disenchanting, but Gragnani could be exactly what the Sabres need to maintain that power play.

Defensively, Chris Butler will give the Sabres a solid defensive defenseman. Butler came to the NHL in the midst of an up-and-down season in the AHL, but once he entered the pro ranks, Butler settled in. Although his point production may never reach the heights it did in Denver (0.4 points per game), defensively, Butler could shoot right up the depth chart.

Right alongside him will be another solid defender in Mike Weber, who'll be big in stabilizing the defense for years to come. Weber has a good frame (6'2"), but he's also got a little ways to go in terms of filling out, but definitely has the edge.

Looking at the veteran presences on the defense (outside of Rivet), Joe DiPenta will be providing depth for the Sabres while Steve Montador is a good low-pairing defensive solution.

Leading the back end will be Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman, both of whom are sound, stable defensemen who are able to chip in with 20-25 points each year. Neither are going to blow anyone away with their point production, but their poise is what they are paid for.

Lydman especially is underrated, as he can play an effective 22 minutes a game—his steadiness is just overlooked when compared to some of the bigger names in the division and conference.


Up to Increasing the Population of Pominville?

Up front, the Sabres have three prominent young scorers.

Thomas Vanek has been a big time goal scorer since he entered the league with 25 goals in his rookie season. From there, Vanek has posted seasons of 43, 36, and 40 goals and could one day be a 50-goal man easily.

Along with Vanek, Derek Roy has grown into a consistent scorer, but he's also developed into a dangerous two-way threat that is a dynamic play maker as well (133 assists in the past three seasons and not afraid to shoot), while Jason Pominville also has deft playmaking ability off the wing.

From there, the Marian Gaborik-esque Tim Connolly will be required to provide some auxiliary scoring. While Connolly has a ton of potential and is a point-a-game player, he's simply never stayed healthy enough to put it together for a full season since 2002-'03.

If he can, then the Sabres have (potentially) an 80-point player and four devastating forwards. If he can't stay healthy, then Connolly will probably produce as many points as games played.

Speaking of big-time potential, Nathan Gerbe is the same, but simply put in a Martin St. Louis-sized frame. Gerbe is a fairly balanced scorer who loves to shoot the puck, but can set up his teammates as well, meaning he may be good alongside Drew Stafford.

Outside of the big three, Stafford took the most shots out of any Buffalo forward and his 20-goal campaign may just be the beginning.

Even if not paired alongside Gerbe, Stafford's production should inch up like it has in previous seasons, as he may broach 50-point/23-goal territory.

Staying down the wing, Clarke Macarthur continued along his own path of development, doubling his production from the 2007-'08 season. Macarthur's 17 goals last year may be right around where he levels off, while Daniel Paille should be walking along his own "bounce back path" as he looks to get back to the 19-20 goal range.

Providing more experienced depth, Jochen Hecht could bounce back to the low 40s neighbourhood in production, while still providing a great two-way presence.

Along with him, Mike Grier will be providing leadership to the young Sabres as well, but his production is more low-line rather than rivaling Hecht's, who should be in second line territory (although if Hecht can't get back to the 40+ point plateau, he may get bumped for a youngster).

Paul Gaustad will be providing a "rough 'n' tumble" approach from back on the fourth line, while Patrick Kaleta will be right there along with him and Matt Ellis can grind it out as well.

Because Adam Mair won't be starting the season with the team (he had surgery late in the offseason), there is a bit of room up front.

Michigan State alum Tim Kennedy might be fighting for some room up front after an outstanding rookie season in the AHL that saw him net 69 points in 73 games.

Along with Kennedy, the burly Marc Mancari has proved to be a steal in the seventh round, having scored 73 goals in the past three AHL seasons combined. Mancari is the prototypical power forward that the Sabres need and if his transition to the NHL goes as well as his time in the AHL, the Sabres will have a powerful weapon.

Much like Tyler Myers, Tyler Ennis is taking a shot at making the team straight out of Junior Hockey. Although the Sabres are stocked with a ton of bodies up front, Ennis just put up back-to-back seasons of 43 goals and 91 and 83 points, respectively, for Medicine Hat. In other words, Ennis is proven to have real gifts and if those gifts can, they'll translate into an NHL career ASAP.


So What’s It All Mean…


Even though the Sabres lack that big time puck mover on the back end, they still have a ton of pieces to work with.

With three qualified scorers up front, one who’ll be dangerous once he stays healthy, and a top-level starting goalie, the Sabres have the pieces to get back into contention.

While the defensemen might be the on-ice problem, the off-ice one might be that no one believes in them. With each team having their own issues in the Northeast, though, the Sabres have a great shot at capitalizing.

Buffalo's question: Who's going to score from the back end?

If they can get an answer to that question, they can make second place.

Predicted Finish: Second in Northeast

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Buffalo Sabres Head Coach Lindy Ruff has found himself in a spot in which he has not been before. The problem? Too many defensemen. Though not all of Ruff's defensemen could be considered top four defensemen he certainly has an overflowing amount of blue liners.

Captain Craig Rivet, Henrik Tallinder, Toni Lydman, Nathan Paetsch, Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, Steve Montador,  and last, but not least, Mike Weber. That's not to mention players that within the next year that should be ready; Tyler Meyrs  and TJ Brennan head up the names on that list.

So what is Ruff to do? The largest problem is that only Mike Weber can be sent down to Portland without having to clear waivers. But the rest of the seven are veterans. And as frugal as the Buffalo Sabres are, it is a very slim chance they would let a player walk away and pay them for no services rendered.

Paetsch and Montador can also play a forward position on a fourth line, but the problem there is that the Sabres are stacked with fourth line players  and really have no room for them.

Last season saw Nathan Paetsch spend a considerable amount of time in the press box while six defensemen dressed, players like Weber and Butler were called up and played before Ruff would even dress Paetsch in a game. This poses the question  does Ruff try and roll four lines of defense?

Personally, I think that would be a rather wise move by the coach. Yes it would cut down on the forwards that are able to dress per game, but it may help in keeping Buffalo's top two lines of defensemen fresh and healthy. The trio of Paetsch, Tallinder, and Lydman all become unrestricted free agents at the end of this up coming season. Until then, Ruff may have to pull the proverbial rabbit out of his hat trying to keep this defensive corps happy and gelling together as one cohesive unit.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

After winning the President’s Trophy as the league’s best team during the 2006-07 season, the Sabres have not enjoyed the past two seasons—missing the playoffs by a narrow margin in both of them.

An offseason of few departures and some interesting acquisitions leaves Buffalo with an unknown future. However, there are five main questions that are looming over the Sabres before the start of the regular season.

           

1). How many games will Ryan Miller start this season?

The reports coming out of camp are that Miller is finally at 100%. If the Sabres want to make the playoffs then Miller needs to be the best player on the team. Last season Buffalo was 7-14-3 when Miller wasn’t between the pipes.

Backup goaltender Patrick Lalime proved that he could not carry the load in Miller’s absence and may have single-handedly cost the Sabres a shot at the post season by letting in a few “soft” goals late in the season. If Miller’s ankle gives him any problems, the Sabres will be in some serious trouble.

           

2) Which Thomas Vanek will show up this season?

Vanek looked much better last season compared with the previous season where his numbers dropped significantly. Nobody expects the +47 Vanek of 2006-07, but his defensive efforts were noticed by many last season.

He also more than likely would have eclipsed his career-high in goals scored had it not been for the broken jaw which sidelined him for one month. If Vanek’s game continues to improve as it did last season, he will certainly make up for a lack of scoring from the third and fourth lines.

 

3) Who is going to step up on defense?

The Buffalo defense scored a measly 23 goals last season, 8 of which were scored by Jaroslav Spacek who jumped over the border to Montreal.

Chris Butler, Craig Rivet, Toni Lydman, and Andrej Sekera are being reported as the only definite starting defenders at this point. The final two defensive spots are up for grabs between four players.

Many fans feel the organization overpaid veteran defenseman Henrik Tallinder, and they may be right after his abysmal 12-point campaign in 2008-09. Competing for the final three spots alongside Tallinder are newcomer Steve Montador, 6-foot-8 prospect Tyler Myers, and third-year defenseman Mike Weber.

Weber battled a number of injuries last season and only suited up for seven games. However, he was +12 while playing just 16 games two season ago. His attitude also seems right for the moment.

“This is my year,” Weber told the Buffalo News.

The key in Buffalo is not finding the right combinations on defense, it is finding the right combinations very quickly, or it might be too late.

           

4) Who’s on third? Wait, no, who’s on fourth? Wait, I’m confused.

The Sabres coaching staff, namely Lindy Ruff, needs to figure out who will be playing on the third and fourth lines together. Currently, Buffalo is looking for someone to jump onto the third line with Paul Gaustad and returnee Mike Grier, and need two-fourth liners to accompany the hard-hitting Patrick Kaleta.

Clarke MacArthur, Daniel Paille, Tim Kennedy, and Nathan Gerbe are all going to make their cases for that last third line spot. MacArthur seems to be the most logical choice of the four players, especially after putting up career high numbers last year.

Paille still hasn’t turned into the player Buffalo was hoping for when he was drafted in the first round back in 2002 and the Sabres are growing tired of waiting.

Kennedy and Gerbe have a great chance of rounding out that fourth line; especially after both were selected to the AHL all-rookie team last season.

 

5) How long will the Sabres take to get everything in order?

This is the biggest question facing the Sabres. Buffalo has a much easier schedule to start the season than they do to finish the season. If they can’t get their defensive pairings together, or their third and fourth lines don’t click, then it’s going to be a long season in Buffalo.

But if the Sabres find a way to get everything together quickly—if leaders like Vanek, Derek Roy, and Jason Pominville have the season they’re expected to – then they have a great chance at getting into the playoffs and maybe even making a little run once they get in.

 

Prediction: After two seasons of waiting, the Sabres will find a way to sneak into the playoffs as the eight seed.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

We are now less than a month away from the start of the 2009-10 NHL regular season, and I think it's a great time to start publishing my fantasy preview articles for each NHL team.

When looking at a player and predicting how he will fare offensively this season, there are a many things to consider. Is the player at an age where he will improve or decline? Is he playing with new line mates this year? Did his team acquire some players who may push them down the depth chart?

Those are just a few of the questions needed to be asked and I believe I can accurately predict a player's point totals for the upcoming season. Of course, things like injuries are impossible to predict, so these are best case scenarios.

2009-10 Depth Chart

Forwards

Thomas Vanek-Derek Roy-Drew Stafford
Clarke MacArthur-Tim Connolly-Jason Pominville
Nathan Gerbe-Paul Gaustad-Jochen Hecht
Dan Paille-Adam Mair-Patrick Kaleta

Defense

Andrej Sekera-Toni Lydman
Chris Butler-Craig Rivet
Henrik Tallinder-Steve Montador

Goalies

Ryan Miller
Patrick Lalime

Sure Bet: Thomas Vanek

Only 25 years of age, Vanek is a pure goal scorer, as evidenced by the fact that he scored 119 goals in the last three seasons combined. He scored 40 goals last season, despite missing nine games with a broken jaw.

Dark Horse: Tim Connolly

A very talented player, Connolly scored at a point per game pace last season. There is just one problem: injuries. This guy has only played in 100 games over the last three seasons and is always a concern.

2009-10 Scoring Projections

Player                       GP-G-A-P
1. Thomas Vanek        80-44-36-80
2. Derek Roy              82-27-48-75
3. Jason Pominville      79-28-45-73
4. Tim Connolly          68-21-44-65
5. Drew Stafford        81-23-35-58
6. Clarke MacArthur    75-19-23-42
7. Dan Paille              77-13-21-34
8. Craig Rivet            79-4-30-34
9. Jochen Hecht        74-10-23-33
10. Andrej Sekera      80-7-24-31
11. Paul Gaustad       75-10-19-29
12. Toni Lydman       81-5-22-27
13. Nathan Gerbe      76-10-13-23
14. Adam Mair          74-5-13-18
15. Henrik Tallinder    77-3-10-13
16. Chris Butler         78-5-7-12
17. Patrick Kaleta      68-3-8-11
18. Steve Montador   79-1-10-11

Goalies
1. Ryan Miller 39-25-6 .920 SVP 2.47 GAA
2. Patrick Lalime 4-5-3 .903 SVP 2.86 GAA

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

It's the second day of training camp and Sabres fans can rejoice, as Drew Stafford will return to the team this season after all.

After contract talks reportedly reached a stalemate earlier this week, Sabres GM Darcy Regier said the team was continuing to work with Stafford to try and get a deal done.

On Sunday, the Sabres announced that they have signed Stafford to a two-year deal worth $1.5 mil this season, and $2.5 mil next season.

The team is expected to continue working with Stafford throughout the two-year period to sign a longer-term contract. In the meantime, Stafford is a promising young player who will continue to develop his offensive skills in hopes of signing a better contract in the future.

Last season, Stafford had 20 goals and 25 assists (both career-highs) for a total of 45 points in 79 games.

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Dear Mike,

Within a few days the Buffalo Sabres will be starting the 2009-2010 NHL season with a major issue that has not been fully addressed this offseason. A lack of veteran leadership plagues the young Sabres.

In my opinion your the perfect guy to fill this role.

I realize that the Sabres probably have not contacted you, but why don't you contact them?

Back in 1995-96 there was a guy you know very well named Randy Burridge.

On opening day, Randy showed up to Sabres training camp and asked for a tryout ( I don't have to get into too many details because you were there).

John Mucker and Ted Nolan granted Randy an opportunity to earn his way on the team, not anticipatiing the true impact and leadership he ended up providing to the team .

That training camp and preseason Randy by far was the best player on the ice.  He felt he had something to prove. As you know, Randy made the team and not only scored 25 goals that season...but became one of the role models and leaders that Ted Nolan built his team around.

Ted said countless times that year that Burridge was the "guy" he wanted his players to emulate on the ice.

Randy was a guy that gave 100% effort on every shift, every night, and provided leadership to a young team finding its way.

Mike, now is your chance to be the guy willing to lay it on the line. You have an opportunity to become "that guy" that Lindy will want his young players to emulate, a role model to build a team around.

Be the guy that brings 100% every time he steps on the ice and exceeds the expectations of his teammates, coaches, and fans. Don't sit back & wait. Seize the moment.... and take back your rightful place, as one of the Sabres greatest impact players of all time.

I hope you get a chance to read this letter.....and I hope we see you Saturday when training camp begins.

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Just wondering is it true that Michael Peca will show up at Sabres training camp this weekend? Rumors circulating all around Buffalo have Mike showing up at Sabres training camp as a walk on player trying to make the team.

If this is true, I feel this would improve the Buffalo Sabres locker room leadership as well as improve special teams. This team lacks leadership! even though the Sabres added Mike Grier in the offseason, the Sabres still lack the grit players needed for a long playoff run.

Jerry Sullivan of the Buffalo News wrote an article this week in which Michael Peca expressed regret regarding his departure from Buffalo. "I'd be lying if I said I didn't look back with some regrets," he said.

"I probably should have been more involved in the process than just allowing my agent to handle things. I should have made it more clear how much I wanted to stay. There's things in life you look back on and wish you could change, but you can't. You just hope to learn from them."

I think its time to embrace our former Captain, and bring him home for the last few years of his career. Darcy this team needs help, and this guy can deliver! Mike we hope to see you Saturday! Last time I checked.....#27 is available.

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Buffalo's "grow your own program" will hopefully start to bear fruit, as a few of their recent draft picks should be competing for permanent roster spots this season.

 

Boston College standout Nathan Gerbe, while only 5'5”, has already showcased his abilities by scoring 56 points in 57 games last season for the Portland Pirates. He was drafted in 2005 by Buffalo in the entry draft.

 

Meanwhile, Buffalo native Tim Kennedy should also be competing for a LW spot. He scored 67 points in 73 games last year in Portland. I would say that behind Vanek, Hecht, and Paille, it's wide open. These two could make it interesting.


The most anticipated arrival in the past few years has been the early draft pick, defense man Tyler Myers. Not only is his skill and raw talent allegedly solid, the kid is 6'8”. If you can remember a few years back, Chara was kind of a very large tomato can with a rocket slap shot. He's since developed his skill to become an obvious force at 6'9”, and a premier defender in the league.

 

Could Myers be the next Chara? Word is from practice reports is that the guys have to really be on point when he's on ice because he was ripping people's heads off!

 

Him and Butler had a little inside competition with each other to see who could lay the smack down on fools!

 

With the Montador addition and the Barbarian up front, there could be record PIMs this year! As I've said before, watch out for Tyler Myers.

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