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After big summer, Sabres fail to meet expectations

Tuesday, 04.10.2012 / 10:20 AM / Season in Review

By Corey Masisak - NHL.com Staff Writer

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After big summer, Sabres fail to meet expectations
After a big summer, the Buffalo Sabres failed to meet expectations.
What happened?

BUFFALO SABRES

LEADING SCORER
RW Jason Pominville
GOALS: 30 | ASST: 43 | PTS: 73
SOG: 235 | +/-: -7
TOP GOALIE
G Ryan Miller
RECORD: 31-21-7
GAA: 2.55 | SVP: 0.916
TOP ROOKIE
LW Marcus Foligno
GOALS: 6 | ASST: 7 | PTS: 13
SOG: 23 | +/-: 6
TEAM MVP
Jason Pominville
SURPRISING STAT
The Sabres expended $8.5 million of cap space for Ville Leino and Brad Boyes, and they scored eight goals each.

Buffalo spent a lot of money in the offseason to increase expectations, but the Sabres needed a late surge to get back in the playoff hunt before four losses in the final five games left them just short. Miller struggled a bit early in the season and was concussed in what some pundits wanted to point to as a season-defining moment (Milan Lucic ran Miller over and no one from the Sabres responded), and the offense sputtered until the late-season run. When it came time to finish the comeback, injuries to top defensemen Tyler Myers and Christian Ehrhoff were a big problem.

How to fix it?

Adding Cody Hodgson could potentially be a big first step to tinkering with a team that isn't far from not only being a playoff-bound club but a Stanley Cup contender. There will be more than $7 million come off the books in Brad Boyes and Jochen Hecht, but a raise for RFA Tyler Ennis is going to eat up part of that. Expect the narrative in Buffalo to be all about toughness -- the Sabres' collective team spirit was questioned when Miller was injured.

Three reasons for hope:

1. Late-season additions Hodgson and Foligno could flourish in their first full season with the Sabres and supplement the scoring of Pominville and Thomas Vanek.

2. Miller came back from an early-season wobble in form and the concussion to be a dominant goaltender in the final weeks of the season. Jhonas Enroth proved he can be a No. 1 guy for more than a couple games at a time, which makes him either a valuable backup or trade asset.

3. It didn't go as planned in Year One for new owner Terry Pegula, but the long-term stability he offers -- not to mention a commitment to spend to the salary cap -- is going to keep the Sabres among teams with Cup aspirations.

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic