It occurred to me while watching the Stanley Cup finals that all good hockey teams have an identity. The Chicago Blackhawks had elite forward who could score, but were also a solid defensive team. The Boston Bruins were a physical, hard-nosed team that shut opponents down.



It got me thinking, what is the Buffalo Sabres' identity?



 

It occurred to me while watching the Stanley Cup finals that all good hockey teams have an identity. The Chicago Blackhawks had elite forward who could score, but were also a solid defensive team. The Boston Bruins were a physical, hard-nosed team that shut opponents down.

It got me thinking, what is the Buffalo Sabres' identity?

The best Sabres team in recent years was the 2006-07 team that captured the President's Trophy at the end of the season with 113 points. The Sabres' identity that year was its four balanced forward lines, reliable defense and spectacular goaltending. Buffalo emerged as the top team in the Northeast Division in 2009-10. That year, the Sabres' identity was being a strong defensive team, as goalie Ryan Miller captured the Vezina trophy.

The Sabres' identity has been unclear since then. The defense has deteriorated and the team doesn't have many players who can score consistently. After Milan Lucic ran over Miller, the Sabres were known as a soft team who wouldn't stand up for their own players. Buffalo did address its toughness prior to the 2012-13 season by signing Steve Ott and John Scott. However, the Sabres still didn't have an identity as they struggled in every aspect of the game last season.

After seeing the team's 2013 draft class, I believe General Manager Darcy Regier is attempting to form a new identity for his team. He wants the Sabres to be a physical, hard-nosed defensive team – much like the Bruins. Many of the recent Stanley Cup winners have been strong defensively.

Buffalo selected Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen with the No. 8 overall pick and Russian defenseman Nikita Zadorov at No. 16. Ristolainen is 6-foot-4 and 207 pounds, and Zadorov is 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds. Ristolainen has a chance to be on the opening day roster. If Tyler Myers returns to his Calder Trophy form and Brayden McNabb and Mark Pysyk can develop, Buffalo could have a nice group of defensemen.

However, the Sabres need to commit to this new identity. In my opinion, Buffalo has too many players who aren't good in their own end of the ice like Cody Hodgson, Tyler Ennis, Thomas Vanek, Drew Stafford and Mikhail Grigorenko. Buffalo needs to get forwards who can play good two-way hockey. Grigorenko is still young and Zemgus Girgensons looked like that type of player in Rochester last season. Trading Vanek could help Buffalo continue to move toward its new identity.