Count the Buffalo Sabres among the teams to make some serious off-season moves.
While it may be premature to suggest the Sabres are playoff-bound, the club would certainly like to take a step forward. If they make the post-season this time out, it’ll be the first time in 10 seasons. Possessing the league’s longest active playoff draught isn’t a feather in their cap.
But Buffalo is moving forward with new general manager Kevyn Adams and at least one big ticket player in Taylor Hall.
The forward was acquired for a good time but not necessarily for a long time, as he inked a one-year deal October 11. He’s now front and centre for the Sabres – more accurately, he’s on the left wing – and that should give the team a formidable one-two punch.
Hall and Jack Eichel could be just the combination needed to push Buffalo over the hump.
“You have to be excited when you think of two elite forwards of that calibre attacking the opposition with the system we have,” head coach Ralph Krueger said. “It will be lethal.”
Eichel was on pace for 94 points last season had he been able to play all 82 games. His time with Victor Olofsson and Sam Reinhart led to significant production, but throwing Hall in the mix is just too good to pass up. If all goes according to plan, Eichel could eclipse 100 points. Hall has scored 80 points twice in his career and should be due another run at his top form.
The Sabres also rolled the dice on veteran centre Eric Staal, who’ll likely be used to give Jeff Skinner a kick in the pants. The two played together in Carolina back in the day. Skinner has been struggling with Buffalo, scoring just 23 points last season after a career-high campaign in 2018-2019 delivered 63 points in 82 games.
Skinner has hit the 30-goal mark twice with Staal as his teammate and the Sabres are hoping he’ll return to a more dependable level of production.
Buffalo enters the 2020-2021 season with high expectations and plenty of firepower, but will it be enough to swing the difference and turn them into a playoff team? Only time will tell, but you’ve got to like their chances.