NHL 2010-2011: Breaking Down the Buffalo Sabres Roster

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The roster for the 2010-2011 Buffalo Sabres is set at 23 men, with 13 forwards, eight defensemen, and two goaltenders. Some players on the roster have taken their positive play from the playoffs last season and translated that into a roster spot. Some players have left during free agency over the summer, while others have been brought in via the same route.

Below is a brief overview of the key roster moves made over the offseason:

Departures

D Henrik Tallinder (New Jersey)
D Toni Lydman (Anaheim)
W Adam Mair (New Jersey)
W Tim Kennedy (NY Rangers)

Acquisitions

D Jordan Leopold (Florida/Pittsburgh)
D Shaone Morrisonn (Washington)
C Rob Niedermayer (New Jersey)

Here is a breakdown of the Sabres roster, along with analysis for each group:

Forwards

Jochen Hecht              Tim Connolly             Jason Pominville
Thomas Vanek            Derek Roy                 Drew Stafford
Tyler Ennis                  Rob Niedermayer      Mike Grier
Patrick Kaleta              Paul Gaustad            Cody McCormick
Nathan Gerbe

Once again the group of top six forwards will be relied upon to provide the scoring in both the regular season and the playoffs. Centers Derek Roy and Tim Connolly will most likely lead the team in regular season scoring, but it was their play in the playoffs that drew the ire of many fans, with a combined three assists in six games. If the Sabres are to make a deep playoff run, these two players will need to step up their games in the postseason.

Thomas Vanek, while he had a good showing during the playoffs, had only 28 goals during the regular season, the lowest total since his rookie year. For the Sabres to be a top contender in the Eastern Conference, Vanek needs to regain his 35-40 goal form.

The Sabres got bigger and more physical at forward with the additions of Niedermayer (6’2”, 200) and McCormick (6’3”, 217). Niedermayer, along with Mike Grier, will provide a strong leadership presence in the locker room. Niedermayer is the only Sabre to have won the Stanley Cup, winning it with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. McCormick, after a good showing in the postseason, is an upgrade over Adam Mair.

The Sabres have also added offense from within the organization with the additions of Nathan Gerbe and Tyler Ennis. Both of the diminutive forwards had impressive showings in the postseason, and with more prominent roles on the team, could help a struggling power play. Both players have won the AHL Rookie of the Year award (Gerbe in 2009, Ennis in 2010) and should provide excitement and skill to the forward ranks.

In the hot seat is winger Drew Stafford. Despite playing on a line with Vanek and Roy for most of his career, Stafford has a career-high of 20 goals. The former first-round pick, must consistently use his size to his advantage and drive to the net to be an effective force that other teams have to account for. Stafford is on the last year of his deal and must play well if he plans on continuing to wear the blue and gold in the future.

Defensemen

Shaone Morrisonn           Tyler Myers
Jordan Leopold                Steve Montador
Craig Rivet                       Mike Weber
Chris Butler                      Andrej Sekera

The play of the defense begins and ends with the play of Calder Trophy winner Tyler Myers. It is hard to imagine the 20-year-old has only scratched his potential as he put up very good offensive numbers (11 G, 37 A, 48 Pts) as well as posting a rating of +13. Myers will be looked upon to increase his offensive totals, to become more physical, and use his giant-like frame and reach more to his advantage.

The loss of Henrik Tallinder and Toni Lydman forced management to sign veteran defensemen Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn. Leopold scored 11 goals from the blue line last year and could help to shore up a power play unit that scored no goals in the playoffs against the Bruins. Morrisonn, a very solid and physical player, comes over from the Washington Capitals and will add toughness and size (6’4”, 217) to the backend.

Captain Craig Rivet is fully healthy for the first time in his Sabres career after having offseason shoulder surgery, so his game should improve over last year. His physical play is key to the Sabres’ success, and along with Steve Montador will add grit to the defense corps.

The sixth defense spot seems to be up for grabs between Andrej Sekera, Chris Butler, and Mike Weber. Both Sekera and Butler ended up in Lindy Ruff’s doghouse at the end of last season, but it was Sekera that played in the playoffs over Butler. Weber has impressed in training camp and the preseason, and in practice, Ruff has him paired with Craig Rivet, a sign that Weber will hold the job going into the opener. All three defensemen have to clear waivers to go to the minors, which is the main reason why the Sabres are keeping eight defensemen on the roster.

Goaltenders

Patrick Lalime
Ryan Miller

Ryan Miller is a virtual lock to get 35-40 wins this year as one of the elite goaltenders in the NHL. His workload will be less than last year without having to play in the Olympics, but keeping Miller fresh will be a key element into making a deep playoff run.

Patrick Lalime returns for another year as Ryan Miller’s backup to spill the net-minder for tough stretches. The Sabres have 22 instances of back-to-back games, the most in the NHL, so it is certainly feasible Lalime will see more playing time than he has in the past two seasons.

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