The Buffalo Sabres enter this offseason a changed hockey franchise. From the firing of longtime head coach Lindy Ruff, to the deadline-day trade of captain Jason Pominville to the late season charge for the playoffs, many different emotions were had throughout the Sabres fan base.
This season, the Sabres began with lofty expectations but those would fall apart only 17 games into the season.
Sitting at 6-10-1 (13 points), General Manager Darcy Regier felt a spark was needed to change the hockey team. Regier decided it was time to fire long-time head coach Lindy Ruff. His replacement would be the Rochester Americans head coach Ron Rolston.
Rolston would go on to coach the Sabres to a 15-11-5 record (35 points in 31 games), but the team ultimately missed the playoffs by 7 points.
In a season filled with negatives, there were a handful of bright spots.
Steve Ott, playing his first season with the Sabres, stepped up into a major leadership role as the season progressed. Ott, who recorded 24 points (9 goals, 15 assists) in 48 games, also saw himself become a fan favorite.
Another bright spot was the emergence of Brian Flynn, Kevin Porter and Mark Pysyk. These three players, who started with the Rochester Americans, were not expected to make a major impact in Buffalo this season. Flynn and Porter locked down spots on the Sabres’ third line, with a combined 20 points (10 goals, 10 assists) while Pysyk shifted around the top six of the defense and displayed major development throughout his 19 games played.
Also, the Buffalo Sabres could look to this season as a major developmental one for number one center Cody Hodgson. In his first full season with Buffalo, Hodgson tallied 34 points (15 goals, 19 assists) in 48 games. Not only was that the second-most points on the Sabres, Hodgson’s 34 points gave him the most points by a sophomore player in the NHL.
Through the good and the bad, there were negatives and positives during this unsuccessful season. Only one can hope that the Sabres organization will take the lessons learned, good and bad, to help make the franchise better going into next season.