BUFFALO (LGS) — If you would have told me last month that the Buffalo Sabres would be in last place of the Northeast Division after one month of play, I would not have been surprised. I see this team as being a replication of the 2005-06 Buffalo Sabres, one that started off slow but finished strong and rode the wave into the Eastern Conference Finals. Just as that team needed some time to find their way, so does this edition.
Here are some things that are worth mentioning ten games into the Sabres season.
Was keeping Teppo Numminen worth it?
Numminen is a $2.6 million investment. Obviously with his condition, we aren't taking that hit right now. But why did the Sabres decide to keep him at that steep price? Nathan Paetsch proved last season and is proving again this season that he is ready to be a top six defenseman for this team. Andrej Sekera, Mike Weber and Mike Funk are capable substitutes if any of the starters get injured. The Sabres could've used that money to sign a solid free agent forward or keep someone like Dainius Zubrus in Buffalo.
This team is young, but experienced
Don't let this team fool you. They can claim that they're a "young team" but that would be an easy reprieve from the fact that most of this team has played in two straight Eastern Conference Finals. They are very experienced and can make it on their own. They just have to realize that they are great with or without Daniel Briere and Chris Drury.
Sabres should sign Campbell within the next month
We've been down this road before. Remember Briere in 2005-06? The Sabres could've signed him to a nice deal before he went to arbitration and was awarded $5 million. The Sabres can't make the same mistake here. Campbell is on pace to have a career year and reach his second-straight All-Star Game. Sign him now to a nice extension, in between what Jochen Hecht is scheduled to make and Derek Roy's contract.
Tim Connolly is an important piece of this team
The Connolly power play unit – along with Campbell, Jaroslav Spacek, Paul Gaustad and Ales Kotalik – has been very strong. It shows what Connolly is capable of when he's healthy. He was worth the risk when the Sabres signed him to a three year deal in 2006. He has 11 points through 10 games this season, tied for the team lead with Campbell.
Jason Pominville having a quiet (but strong) season
Anyone else know that Pominville had 10 points this season? I knew he had five goals, but had no idea he had just as many assists. It was going to be interesting to see how he responded with the departure of Briere. Briere was a huge key to Pominville's success last season, but Pominville is proving that he is just as great on his own.
The defense needs to improve
This is an obvious point. The Sabres are tied for sixth in the league in goals scored with 36, but they are tied for 20th in goals against with 34. This isn't a sustainable statistic. They cannot keep allowing goals at this rate and succeed.
Here's an interesting piece of information for you: Since Ryan Miller and the Sabres shut out the Atlanta Thrashers 6-0 on Oct. 11, the Sabres have allowed 25 goals in seven games. Surprisingly, their record in that time frame is 4-3-0.
What does November hold?
The Sabres play 13 games in November, including seven games at home. They play Montreal four times and Boston three They also face Ottawa twice and Toronto once. Needless to say, this is an important month for the Sabres and their spot in the division. The biggest test will be the two games with Ottawa. It will be a great gauge as to where this team stands in the division and the conference.
The Sabres have played tough in the first ten games. They probably look back at the opening weekend and the home and home series with the New York Islanders and wish they could have that back. That really put them behind the eight ball. Hopefully this team doesn't become a "streaky" team where they win a few games, lose a few games, and so on. They need to be consistent. So far, they have lacked that through the first ten games.