Skip to main content

Sabres must assist Miller to reach next level

by Dave Lozo
If the 2009-10 season produced one breakout star who stood out more than all the others, it was Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller.
Miller won tournament MVP honors at the 2010 Olympics as he carried the United States to a silver-medal finish against Canada. The gold-medal game went to overtime before Sidney Crosby beat Miller with a quick shot along the ice.
Miller's regular season in the NHL was deemed just as outstanding, as he took home the Vezina Trophy as the League's best goaltender. He posted career-bests in wins (41), goals-against average (2.29) and save percentage (.929). But as was the case at the Winter Games, Miller fell short of the ultimate prize as the Sabres were bounced from the first round of the playoffs in six games by the Boston Bruins.
It takes more than one player -- even one as great as Miller -- to win a Stanley Cup.
"As a group, I don't know if we did as well as we could," Miller said following the Game 6 loss that ended Buffalo's season. "We have enough guys that know what's going on that should be leading the way. We made some critical errors that proved costly."
The Sabres will now turn the page and start anew with a roster that looks like it will contend for another Northeast Division title.
Defensemen Henrik Tallinder and Tony Lydman left via free agency and were replaced with Jordan Leopold and Shaone Morrisonn. Tallinder and Lydman combined for just 8 goals and 32 assists last season, but they were second and fourth, respectively, among the team's defensemen in ice time.
Changes on offense saw Raffi Torres and Tim Kennedy depart and Rob Niedermayer arrive. Torres had 19 goals in 74 games, but zero in 14 games with Buffalo after he was acquired from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline.
Kennedy won a $1 million contract via arbitration, but the Sabres later bought out the deal and he signed with the New York Rangers. Niedermayer is a checking forward who can chip in with a goal now and then. The lack of turnover among the Sabres forwards should suit them just fine, as the team finished fourth in the Eastern Conference with 235 goals last season.

A big reason for the Sabres' offensive success last season was center Tim Connolly, who had 17 goals and 48 assists. But the most important number for Connolly was the 73 games played, the most for him since 2002-03. He will once again look to avoid the injury bug that has plagued him in recent years.
Center Derek Roy led the team in scoring with 26 goals and 43 assists. Right wing Thomas Vanek finished with a team-leading 28 goals. Right wing Jason Pominville and center Jochen Hecht also delivered 20-goal seasons.
The Sabres boast a lot of youth up front. Patrick Kaleta, 24, had 10 goals in 55 games and has shown signs of becoming an effective scorer. Drew Stafford, also 24, had 14 goals and 20 assists, but those numbers represent a dip in his statistics (20-25) from a year ago. Nathan Gerbe, 23, could see an increased role this season after playing 20 games in Buffalo the past two seasons. Tyler Ennis, 20, was named the AHL Rookie of the Year last season and had 3 goals and 6 assists in 10 games with the Sabres last season.
Rounding out the forwards include center Paul Gaustad (12 goals in 65 games), right wing Mike Grier (10 goals in 73 games) and Niedermayer (10 goals in 71 games).

Tallinder and Lydman found new homes, but Leopold and Morrisonn should fill in admirably.
The 30-year-old Leopold averaged 21:55 of ice time between the Florida Panthers and Pittsburgh Penguins last season and was within one win of having a Stanley Cup ring on his resume, but his Calgary Flames lost in Game 7 of the Final to the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004.
Morrisonn spent the past six seasons with the Washington Capitals and will provide the Sabres depth along the blue line.
The biggest star on the blue line for Buffalo is Tyler Myers, who captured the Calder Trophy last season thanks to his 11 goals, 37 assists and plus-13 rating in 82 games. Captain Craig Rivet is expected to be fully recovered from shoulder surgery by the time the season gets under way.
Steve Montador hasn't played fewer than 72 games the past four seasons and he'll be counted on once again.

Chris Butler, 24, could be in for more playing time with Tallinder and Lydman gone. He had 1 goal and 20 assists in 59 games last season. Andrej Sekera found himself in a battle with Butler for ice time last season and that could be the case at the start of this season.

Miller got the bulk of the work last season, and that doesn't figure to change.
The 30-year-old played in 69 games and he'll probably at least that many again. Miller has only played in less than 60 games once since 2005-06 when he was held to 59 games two seasons ago. But that was only because of an ankle injury that sidelined him near the end of the season.
Patrick Lalime was resigned to back up Miller after posting a 4-8-2 record to go with a 2.81 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
Follow Dave Lozo on Twitter: @DaveLozo

View More

The NHL uses cookies, web beacons, and other similar technologies. By using NHL websites or other online services, you consent to the practices described in our Privacy Policy and Terms of Service, including our Cookie Policy.