20) What is the weakness of this team? Center
Last year, I said I didn't think Derek Roy was a #1 center. Oh, wait. That was 2010. Now he's gone and we are relying on 63 and 19 to be our #1 and #2 centers. Not to sound like a broken record, but you know how I feel about anointing young kids, especially when both guys have played center for less than a year. The Sabres have been thin at center for years now. Roy was the leading scorer at the position last year with 17 goals. Next up, Luke Adam with 10 goals. Hodgson wasn't exactly lights out for the Sabres as he had 3 goals in just 20 games here. It is a lot different playing on the 3rd/4th line in Vancouver than possibly the 1st line here. I can't stress enough how the position is just a disaster here. Three years ago, people barked at the notion of #55 playing center. Now a lot of people are just accepting it. This is what happens when you ignore the position for so many years. You are looking to fit anything here. The Sabres didn't even have a center in the top 45 in scoring last year in the NHL.
19) Who will lead the team in goals? Thomas Vanek
I think I pick Vanek every year for this one. Up until last season, he had led the team in goals for 5 straight seasons. He was well on his way to doing it again until he went into a long slump from January until the end of the season. In his first 34 games, Vanek had 18 goals and 21 assists. In his last 40 games, he had just 8 goals and 14 assists. Now, the rumor around the camp fire was that he was playing hurt. It was the mysterious Ryan Fitzpatrick rib injury all over again. I don't know what to make of it. I like Vanek but in a pity sort of way. I know it sounds flippant, but I'm not trying to be. A lot of fans and media pretty much anointed him as the franchise scorer and he hasn't been that guy. It's not his fault. I think he's good. He's just not a franchise player. High salary doesn't equal stardom. I know things could be better for him. He could have a coach who isn't such a douche to him or a center or more ice time. Vanek was 5th on the team for average time on the ice per game at 16:56. For crap's sake, Hecht was at 16:51 when he actually played. Doesn't make sense. However, he is our best scorer, so, that's why he'll win the scoring title here.
18) Who will be the Sabres most improved player? Ville Leino
Well, it can't get any worse for the guy, can it? Did you know that Matt Ellis – MATT ELLIS – had more shots on goal last year than Ville Leino? 37 also played 11 fewer games than Leino. Picking Leino is more about how shitty he was last year and not necessarily about him becoming a good player. I think he's average, but he's not an 8-goal guy. Obviously, playing him at center was a terrible decision. He's not a center. He's a guy who can probably get you 15 goals a year and work the corners in Lindy's puck possession system. We've seen the guy play out of his mind in the playoffs with the Flyers so we know he can bring it. I just think a short year and not having as much pressure on him as last year because of salary, will help him.
17) Who should be on the Sabres 3rd line? Leino-Hodgson-Ott
I think this could be a really good forechecking line. They could play Lindy's puck possession game pretty well. To me, this is more about getting Leino on track. I think he and Hodgson could make a nice 1-2 punch because of their stick-handling ability and craftiness with the puck. As for Ott, yeah, I'd liked to put him on a line with McCormick and Kaleta as my banger line, but that's more of a 4th. Ott is better than that. A healthy Hecht or Gerbe wouldn't have been a bad idea here as a winger either, but with Leino's shortcomings on defense and #55 being a question mark, I wanted someone that could play well in their own zone.
16) Which Game of Thrones character reminds me of Marcus Foligno? Arya Stark
(Editor's note: SPOILER FOR SEASON ONE OF GAME OF THRONES/BOOK ONE OF A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. I'M BEING NICE BECAUSE SERIOUSLY, IF YOU HAVEN'T WATCHED OR READ YET, GET WITH IT ALREADY! -HB)
I think the two biggest things in common are how they are the offspring of legendary leaders from Winterfell and the Sabres (Ned Stark and Mike Foligno) and how both beloved characters pretty much died horrible deaths and broke the hearts of many (Ned Stark beheaded and Mike Foligno traded to the Leafs). In addition to the family tree, both act and play kind of the same…aggressive. They are spunky and don't exactly fit the stereotype for ladies/normal wimpy Sabres players. They are tufff with 3 F's. We all know Arya wants to pretty much kick the shit out of everyone who has wronged her and her family. I'm not sure Marcus is that vengeful, but he doesn't seem like someone who'd be on the cover of GQ or saving babies any time soon either. They are two people who break the mold. They're the heir apparent of bloodlines loved in the past by the Sabres fans and the people of Winterfell.