It’s been close to a decade since the Buffalo Sabres reached the playoffs, and star forward Jack Eichel has expressed intense frustration over the Sabres’ failures this offseason. He and Jeff Skinner haven’t reached the playoffs in their careers, but we feel in our NHL predictions that the Sabres will finally break the mold in 2021.
Our NHL predictions don’t have them going far in the playoffs, but they will make progress for the first time in a while. The team improved themselves in the postseason, but there are some points they’ll need to change if they want to compete this season.
— NHL (@NHL) December 12, 2020
What to See With the Sabres
The Sabres got a significant boost this offseason when they signed former first-overall draft pick Taylor Hall. Hall spent much of last year at the New Jersey Devils, but he was traded to the Arizona Coyotes midway through the season. Hall had been a prominent star at the Edmonton Oilers as well, but he hasn’t stayed in one place for long in the past few years.
The Sabres’ offense is already better than last year with Hall on the roster. Expect him to be on the top line with Eichel and Skinner. His presence may also help Skinner, who went from being a Maurice Richard Trophy contender in 2019 to having 23 points last season.
The Sabres did see a few forwards depart this past season, including Marcus Johansson leaving for the Minnesota Wild and Wayne Simmonds heading to the Toronto Maple Leafs. But Hall, Eakin, and Staal all make for improvements that will help Eichel and Skinner go forward.
Other Points To Note
The Sabres still have plenty of young players who are still developing. Among the 25-and-under players to spot this season include Rasmus Dahlin on defense and forwards Sam Reinhart, Curtis Lazar, and Casey Mittelstadt.
Linus Ullmark will be the team’s top goaltender this season. Ullmark is a rising goaltending talent who had a 2.69 GAA last season.
But the greatest concern for the Sabres will be to maintain a strong start. The Sabres saw outstanding peaks in the first few weeks of the past two seasons. But they typically fall apart after that and struggle to contend.
The team also needs to build its penalty killing unit. The Sabres have a penalty kill percentage of about 75 percent, which was the second-worst total in the league last season.
Where Will the Sabres Finish in Their Division?
We have the Buffalo Sabres finishing in fourth place in the Atlantic Division in our NHL predictions for 2021. The Sabres won’t catch up to the Boston Bruins, the Washington Capitals, or the Pittsburgh Penguins, but the team’s significant improvement on the free agent market and the continued growth of their young players will make the Sabres one of the best bets to explore in 2021.
Will the Sabres Reach the Playoffs?
We also predict that the Buffalo Sabres will break their playoff drought this season. They will not go far though, as they will lose in the first round. But the Sabres will still become a real contender worth exploring in 2021. The team has a great chance to go somewhere, but they still need extra work if they want to get even further in the playoffs.
The new season of the NHL is almost upon us! If you want to catch up with all the latest information, make sure you visit our NHL hub page.
Image by: Colin Gallagher