SCHOPP: Bring on the salad course
It's time for the hockey season, and like only a few other campaigns in team history it seems the Sabres are coming right out with the good China.
In Christian Ehrhoff, Robyn Regehr and Ville Leino, the Sabres have brought in established NHL veterans (if not stars) to fill out the roster, as opposed to other rounds of retreads (Rob Niedermayer) and cross your fingers-type prospects (Nathan Paetsch, Clarke MacArthur). And they've given a spanking new look to the workplace, with a $10 million locker-room renovation so spectacular it might make Lady Gaga blush.
Throw in a core group that rose from Toronto territory to steal a playoff spot last season, and when you put it all together it's reasonable to think this team could win the Stanley Cup.
But of course we are six months away from dining on that meal. If the preseason is a mere appetizer, then the regular season might be a big salad. The playoffs are the steak.
Whatever it all is, I'm ready to eat.
I have no guess for what the regular-season questions about this team will prove to be. They should have plenty of scoring. Ryan Miller is (hold on tight) good enough to win it all with, and his backup, Jhonas Enroth, so far in his career is almost as good as Miller. And the defense of course should be improved (although I do not see it as "elite").
There's no doubt that the Sabres have plenty of talent here. They might have eight forwards capable of scoring 30 goals, not that all of them will. With Ehrhoff at the helm they could have an outstanding power play. Their coach has gone deep into the playoffs four times, so he's capable.
The big question the Sabres have to answer is, do they have the heart? Very few of their players have been playoff stars. Even Thomas Vanek has for his career only the 2010 Boston series as a postseason round he starred in, and he was injured for more than half of it. Drew Stafford and Brad Boyes could each score 35 goals this year; will that be enough to convince you on the heels of the Flyers series that they'll be playoff stars? Not me.
It came as a slight disappointment that one more move wasn't made to turn this team's terrific depth into one more stud player. But that move can come later. See what injuries you encounter. Let the season play out a while. Get to January or February, and whether it's Jason Spezza or Paul Stastny or whoever else you think you need to win it all, go make that play.
Because the jury on how Darcy Regier and the Sabres did in all this reconstruction is out, and it won't be back for many months. Don't stress out too much now. The playoffs will come in time. Don't let the season eat at you. Maybe go have a salad to hold you over.