In this 31 part series, I will be working my way back from 31st to 1st in my projected 2019-2020 standings. I will first note some ongoing trends that are happening in the league. Goals scored per game went up for the fourth consecutive season (at 3.01 goals per game last year), shots against finally dipped last season to 31.3 per game after increasing for four consecutive seasons previously. It’s clear the league’s push towards offense is yielding its intended effect.
Seventh up are the Buffalo Sabres who are in their 49th season as an NHL team. They have the longest active playoff drought at 8 seasons (for the record the longest ever is Florida Panthers at 10 seasons between 1999 – 2011).
2018 – 2019 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 25th
- Goals for Rank: 23rd
- Goals against Rank: 24th
- PP Rank: 16th
- PK Rank: 12th
Projected 2019-2020 NHL Stats
- NHL Standings: 24th
- Eastern Conference Standings: 14th
- Atlantic Division Standings: 6th
- Coach: Ralph Krueger (1st season with Buffalo; career 48-19-22-7)
On offense, The Buffalo Sabres are among 15 teams that have at least three players with over 60 points. The top line of Jeff Skinner, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart is not only dangerous, but they are young to boot (two of the three under the age of 25). If you added 2nd and third line talents of Casey Mittelstadt, Jimmy Vesey, Conor Sheary, Evan Rodrigues, Marcus Johansson and Zemgus Girgensons (all under the age of 29) you have a strong young core. They generated the 8th most shots on goal last year, they need to convert at a much higher rate.
Defensively, the team allowed the 23rd most shots against last year. Lead by the two Rasmus’s, Buffalo is one of seven teams with two defensemen scoring over 40 points. Unfortunately, while Rasmus Ristolainen scored 43 points including 17 power play points, he also sported a -41, not only the worst stat in the league but worst by 20% over the next closest player. #1 selection Rasmus Dahlin did not disappoint scoring 20 power play points and four game winning goals. Jake McCabe and Brandon Montour provide even more puck moving offense power as the 2nd line combination.
In net, there was a fairly even split of Carter Hutton and Linus Ullmark (50 games played and 37 games played). Both had a GAA 3 and up and both had a sv% between .905 and .910 putting them outside the top 30 in GAA and save percentage.
Behind the bench, Ralph Krueger spent the last five years as a director in the English Premier League with the Southampton Saints. I guess we could ascertain that defensively his leadership should be sound?
- Marcus Johansson
- Brandon Montour
- Collin Miller
- Jason Pominville
Prospects and Picks
Dylan Cozens — Drafted 7th overall in the draft this year, Dylan put up a very respectable 34 goals and 84 points in 68 games in the WHL with the Lethbridge Hurricanes. He is a very talented skater and he back checks hard, his on ice IQ is excellent.
Sleeper Fantasy Asset
Evan Rodrigues — A VERY VERY early look shows he might be on a third line alongside Marcus Johansson and Jimmy Vesey. I think that could be a solid third line with a bit of talent all around. Second he shot 5% which was a career low. I could see him broaching 40 points and being a good deep league flier. My second pick here is Casey Mittelstadt who could be primed to break out big time this year.
Cap Situation: (per CapFriendly)
$78MM Spent; $3M in Cap room; 22 players signed.