McKenzie: Sabres still in embryonic stage

There are many reasons for Buffalo Sabres fans to be excited moving forward, but it can also be easy for early expectations to spin out of control.

Friday morning’s radio hit on Montreal’s TSN 690 saw an opportunity for a measured voice of reason to weigh in on the immediate outlook for the team.

This was the question put to veteran hockey Insider Bob McKenzie:

“Sam Reinhart reaching a two-year deal with the Sabres. Buffalo seems to be the darling pick for a team that can actually get back to being competitive this year. What kind of role do you think Sam Reinhart fits into the Sabres’ lineup with Kyle Okposo expected to rebound, and Casey Mittelstadt getting in there, along with Conor Sheary?”

“There should be more offense for the Sabres all the way around,” noted McKenzie. “First off, with Rasmus Dahlin coming, the No. 1 overall pick, from the back end, he’s going to get a lot more pucks out and get the Sabres off to the races in terms of maybe playing less time in their own end, and trying to generate more offense.

“And a lot of the names you just mentioned, I mean Casey Mittelstadt is a new guy, he’s skilled. You’ve got Eichel coming back, probably with a lot of renewed enthusiasm and expectation of this year not getting off the rails as quickly as it did last year. They don’t have Ryan O’Reilly. They’re not as experienced at the centerice position. But with guys like Reinhart and Mittelstadt and looking for a bounce-back year from Okposo, they should be a team that’s better able to score goals.

“But I think also in terms of where they’re at they’re still very much in the embryonic stage in terms of a developing or emerging team, and they’ve still got a long way to go.

“And you’ve got to be careful when you’ve got guys like Mittelstadt and Dahlin that you don’t create an unreasonable set of expectations for guys that are going to be playing their first game in the National Hockey League.”

Dahlin was the first overall pick in June’s entry draft and will be making his NHL debut, while Mittelstadt was a first-round pick for the Sabres in 2017 and played six games for the team in 2017-18.

The Sabres finished in last place in the NHL last season with a 25-45-12 mark.


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