Sabres Season Preview: The Father And Son Edition

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We’re just one sleep away, as they say, from the first game of the 2015-16 regular season new era of Sabres hockey.

How will the season shake out? Are the playoffs a possibility? I’m not sure it makes any sense to ask.

It will be a curious season, one not so much defined by the number of wins, but the incremental growth of the team and its young stars, headlined by Jack Eichel. Of course – and Jack will tell you this – we should see plenty of headlines from Evander Kane, Ryan O’Reilly, and Tyler Ennis as well. Sam Reinhart and Zemgus Girgensons could generate some surprising production against lesser NHL talent on the third line. The offense is young, and remarkably talented.

The defense is an interesting mix of youth and veteran stop gaps. The continuing emergence of Rasmus Ristolainen and Mark Pysyk will be a welcome sight as the season rolls along.

In goal, Robin Lehner will be proving to the NHL that he is the starting goaltender that Tim Murray is wagering on.

There’s a lot of youth and a lot to prove here in Buffalo.

So, I’m not going to try to sell you on wins. Those W’s will happen, but let’s allow this group time to learn to play together under Coach Dan and against the more inveterate and finely tuned squads of the National Hockey League.

I was going to pour over my posts from last year, and remind you all just how awful it was back then, and how much better it will be – or already is – in Buffalo this year. But who the hell wants to be dragged through any of that anymore? Let’s be adults, and just shoulder the burden of the past.

Let me tell you about my boy, instead. After all, he’s one of the generation that is inheriting this generational team.

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Joy.

This morning, my son woke up eager to vote for the Sabres’ goal song. His first words to me were “IT’S HOCKEY EVE!” He’s got the front page of The Buffalo News’ NHL preview tacked up on his wall, and will tell anyone listening that Evander Kane is going to be that Ovechkin we’ve always wanted (or “Ovech-chicken” as he prefers to say, since that’s how he mispronounced it on his first try a couple years ago, and the joke just stuck, as fun things tend to do). He’ll also mention O’Reilly and Reinhart at times, but he always goes back to Kane. Maybe because, pre-Eichel, that’s where the fun started for him. Mostly because he just wants to see more goals this year. Those are also fun, or so that’s what I think I remember. It’s been a while.

I’ve been showing him clips and highlights of Eichel since the draft. I’ve done my due diligence as a hockey fan parent to explain what a generational talent is, how rare they are, and how lucky he is to grow up watching one. Of course, by the time I get through with the lecture, he’s tuned out. He doesn’t want things explained to him. He just wants the season to get started, already.

He just wants to say things like this:

 


And what of that Eichel kid? Like my boy, there are so many fans out there who have no idea what it is like to watch a hockey team with this kind of talent. I’d like to describe it for you. After all, I’ve lived through and enjoyed the thrills of the Perreault and Hasek eras. But again, I won’t bore any of you with wordy memories of thrills long gone.

If you insist on a season prediction, we’ll go back to The Boy, who, even full of his own youthful exuberance, tells me that “The Sabres will win half and lose half.” He says it with a shrug, as if becoming instant winners doesn’t really matter. He gets it. He’s going to have a lot more to cheer for this year, be it through Eichel, or any of the other “Ovech-chickens” that will keep that goal song playing all season long. He’s going to have a lot more fun. And as his father reassures him, there are some great years coming our way.

The wins will come, but take The Boy’s advice, and be patient. Enjoy the ride.

As for me, I’m more than satisfied with my generational part in all of this. I’m ready to sit back in my E-Z chair, looking forward to watching this team and my boy grow up together into a couple of champs. Who on this sporting earth could ask for anything more than that?

Hockey eve. This house is ready.

Go Sabres.

 

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