Photo courtesy of Hickling Images
*This is the last time I’ll throw the intro to this mini series on an article. After this article, there will only be links to past parts.*
Instead of bombarding you with an article longer than a CVS receipt, I’ve decided to take five players per day at random and give them a goal (or two) for this upcoming season.
I do want to point out that these aren’t my only goals for the player. They vary from rather vague to oddly specific and mostly reflect my first reaction when looking at the name.
The plan is to follow up to see how well these players achieved these goals in my eyes. I also plan on whiffing mightily of some of these, but this is to get the mind back to hockey and what I’d like to see over the course of the season.
There are some players that are technically in the Sabres organization still, but I’m confident they’ll never play a game for Buffalo or Rochester so I left them out.
Lastly, this should go without saying, but any point total I mention is based on the player playing all 82 games.
Without any further delay, here are my goals for the first five players in the Sabres organization.
My goal for Rodrigues is 40 points. Whether that’s 15 goals and 25 assists, 10 goals and 30 assists, I want to see Rodrigues productive as a 3rd line center and the first/second option to fill in on the top 6. I know 40 points is steep, but I truly believe in an 82 game season he can achieve or get darn close to this.
I do not see Rodrigues as a top 6 forward if everyone is healthy, ideally you’d like to see him on the 4th line, which means your forward depth is astronomically better than years past, but for this season, I’d like to see himself solidify his position as the clear cut #3 center.
With 3rd line minutes, PP2 time and some PK time, I think it’s fair to push ERod towards 40 points. If he gets close, that’s a solid year in my eyes. I expect whoever is on the 3rd line to have a bigger impact for the Sabres than years past, Rodrigues being a big part of that.
I expect Lazar to be a top-6 forward in Rochester, but when players inevitably go down, I want to see him not look out of place when he gets the call.
So, that’s my vague goal: Fill in on the bottom-6 with average play, even though his RAPM chart doesn’t really give much hope he’ll provide average play when on the ice.
Another goal is to simply make the team out of camp, but it’s more realistic that he’ll be utilized as a call up for the bottom 6 or depth on a road trip if a couple forwards go down with injuries.
At least 35 goals and 65 points.
I know, that shows he would have 30 assists, which would be the first time since his rookie season in 2010-11. Well, he’s making $9 millon a year now and I’m not alright with Skinner putting up anything less than 35 goals, especially since getting 30 assists is a bit of a stretch for him.
He’s a hot and cold player when it comes to putting pucks in nets, so he has to be able to produce points in other ways. Expectations for Skinner should be high and I hope for nothing but success for him because he’s going to be around for a long time. I’m a big fan of watching him play, but the Sabres need a lot of production from their top guys.
My first goal, as with all other players with injuries right now, is to make a full, speedy recovery and not have that injury affect their game once they’re back. Especially with the depth on the backend, make sure Pilut is 110% ready.
Once healthy, my goal is rather simple. I want to see Pilut establish himself has a serviceable second pairing defenseman. Whether he plays with Miller, Ristolainen, Montour or Jokiharju, being able to going with Dahlin, Pilut and McCabe down the left side would be ideal.
He doesn’t need to blow points out of the water, they will come with the top four playing time and powerplay time, but Buffalo needs a player like Pilut to swoop in an make the LD on the second pairing solidified. Pilut has the best shot at doing so.
That’s why I want the Sabres to be extra cautious until he’s good to go. It’s a lot to ask for this only being his second season in North America, but I think more team success can come from Pilut’s play than other players on the Sabres.
Miska Kukkonen/Linus Cornholm/William Worge Kreu
Kukkonen, Cornholm and Worge Kreu don’t bring much offensively, so if an attainable goal can be attached to this trio of 19 year olds, it is to focus on becoming the new age “defensive defenseman”. That means skating well, even if it’s not blazing north-south speed, good gap control, and active stick preventing passing lanes, accurate breakout passes and obviously keeping the puck out of his own net.