The Buffalo Sabres undertook a full rebuild starting in 2012, and after 5 years of accumulating, developing, and establishing the next wave of Sabres, it looks like they’re finally rounding the last bend of the rebuild road.
For three straight seasons, 2012-13, 2013-14, and 2014-15 they posted a pitiful 54 points or less. Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart represent the rewards for their futility. The last two seasons, however, have seen them climb into that bubble range; 81 and 78 points.
Which brings us to our next question:
The 2015 draft is looking like the foundation of hockey’s “next era”.
From the 2005 through 2010 drafts, we had players like Crosby, Toews, Stamkos, Kane, Doughty, Karlsson, Seguin, and Tavares emerge as solidified stars in the league. Kids nowadays would look at them the same way I saw Steve Yzerman or Scott Niedermayer as a kid in the ’90s. The stars of the game; year in and year out.
The time is now.
Jim Nill has been building toward this moment for quite some time. In 2013 he acquired one of the best centers in the game in Tyler Seguin, put a former star in Jason Spezza behind him, and now he’s added a shutdown center in Hanzal, a top winger in Radulov, a fantastic goalie in Ben Bishop, and a solid complementary top-4 defenseman in Marc Methot.
The Florida Panthers might have completely blew it just like the Avalanche did. In 2014 Colorado made the playoffs for the first time in ages, then promptly degraded their roster until Patrick Roy was forced to resign.
The Panthers lost Jonathan Marchessault, Jussi Jokinen, Jaromir Jagr, and Reilly Smith from last year’s team. To offset that loss, they’ve added Evgeni Dadonov, Radim Vrbata, and an import from the Finnish League, Henrik Haapala. That’s a lot of offense to replace.