30) Will the Sabres make the playoffs? YES
This will sound like a broken Jerry Sullivan record, but the goal isn't to just make the playoffs, right? Pegula stated repeatedly that the goal is to win the Cup for the rest of the team's eternity. Also, making the playoffs shouldn't be greeted with a giant "YAAAAAY!" That said, that's where I see the Sabres going. An 8th seed. I think either the Sens, Panthers, or Caps will probably drop out of the top 8. I'm just not blown away by the bottom half of the East. The top teams like NYR, Pitt, Philly, NJ (maybe), and Boston will run the conference, but the rest of the teams are just a pile of "meh".
29) Who should be on the top line? Pominiville-Grigorenko-Vanek
This all depends, of course, on Grigorenko making the team. My expectations for him this season, and even next season, are pretty mininmal. He's only 18 and history shows that Sabres' draft picks normally don't contribute until at least 2 years after they were drafted. However, I've been hearing he's almost a shoo-in to make the team. Of course, lack of centers will do that. The Sabres just better not put his ass on the 4th line with McCormick or Kaleta. Let this guy sink or swim with the best wingers on the team. That would be #29 and #26. Also, with these three together, the best 2-way forward on the team (29) can bail out any defensive shortcomings Grigorenko has. Please don't turn this into a Luke Adam situation, where he starts playing well with his best teammates and then stupid Ruff decides to jettison him to the 4th line because he's not good at defense. If Grigorenko doesn't make the team, Hodgson would be the guy on the top line.
28) What is the strength of this team? The blue line
This is pretty much the same answer I gave last year. If you are big on the injury excuse (NOT ME) for why the Sabres underachieved last season, this is where you come in. Only Robyn Regehr and Jordan Leopold played more than 70 games on the blue line. The team's two best defensemen – Christian Ehrhoff and Tyler Myers – played only 45 games together. We have pretty much the same blue line entering this year. The biggest thing going for the unit is its diversity. You have stay-at-home guys, you have offensive defensemen, you have veteran leadership, you have guys that can hit, you have youth, you have Euros, you have names that are spelled weirdly… you have pretty much everything. To me, the blue line needs to be better in its own end. A lot of times last year, I felt they were sloppy in the defensive zone and gave up too many odd man rushes. Of course, this is largely due to Lindy's d-men constantly pinching in. The Sabres need to let the blue line dictate the pace of the game, slow it down a little. They need to play like Boston did two years ago: do not give up many shots and play a boring defensive style of hockey. I think they have the horses for it, but the philosophy needs to change some.
27) Who needs to step up this year? Tyler Myers
This season needs to be the coming out party for Tyler Myers. Sure, he had a great rookie year, but his last two years have been inconsistent. He's suffered from slow starts, injuries, and was even benched last year. Maybe playing some in Europe will have helped him shake off the cobwebs. The problem with Myers is that I don't exactly know what his game is supposed to be. Is he supposed to be like Pronger, a guy with a nasty edge to his game? Is he supposed to be a guy who is constantly pinching in the offensive zone? I don't even know if he knows. Offensively, I think he's done pretty well here. Even though he played only 55 games last season, he was still in the top 30 in goals scored by defensemen in the NHL. He also had a shooting percentage of 9.5. Defensively? Eh. I think he plays too loose and really needs to go after it more. He needs that edge. He needs to take off the diapers and become a man. The Sabres have enough finesse guys on defense with 44, 3, and 10. They don't have enough hitters, guys who put the fear of God into opposing offenses. 57 needs to step into those shoes and become the d-man we all thought he'd become 3 years ago.
26) Which Game of Thrones character does Lindy Ruff remind me of? Tywin Lannister
Could we not find a better match for this? Not only do they look the same with their evil scowls, their caterpillar fuzz facial hair, and the comb-over, meant to hide that they are balding. Others may think they're in control because of lordships and ownership, but Lindy and Tywin secretly run the Sabres and the Seven Kingdoms.
Don't let their titles fool you. They run the whole damn world. Tywin is the ruler of the Seven Kingdoms because he's feared, has tons of money/power, and a large army. Even if you were the king, you wouldn't dare cross the warden of Casterly Rock because he'd just march on your ass and throw you out. (See: The Mad King) Speaking of Mad Kings, that's pretty much how Lindy is similar to him. Lindy is feared and hated by his players. You know why Lindy ain't going nowhere? Because Terry Pegula is scared of him. He's scared that if he fired him, fans would have a revolt against the team. You think if Terry had vetoed Hecht getting signed, Lindy would have been cool with it? Hell, no. He would have booted Terry's ass out of the office and had Jamie Lannister stab him in the back. He is larger than life at this point. An institution. The only difference between the two? One guy helped win a kingdom while the other hasn't.