At the risk of beating a dead horse, it needs to be pointed out yet again this offseason that the Buffalo Sabres are the youngest team in the NHL, and that the futures of its two stars are very, very uncertain.
This is not to speculate which players will excel or struggle or if Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek will remain with Buffalo for the entire 2013-2014 season. Instead, the facts are pointed out to outline the obstacles the Sabres will face this season.
Every team in Buffalo's new division has gotten better. The Sabres, on the other hand, have gotten younger, with a sprinkle of veteran presence, ie: Henrik Tallinder. With youth, comes growing pains. The rookie mistakes that draw groans from the crowd and sometimes snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Sabres will need to limit these mistakes and grow up in a hurry if they expect to have a chance in making this season anything other than a throw-away rebuilding year.
Adding to the problem Buffalo's youth undoubtedly imposes, the team will also be distracted for most of the season. Young players will not only have to deal with the pressures of performing night-in and night-out in the highest level, but will also have to deal with off-ice issues as the media will relentlessly tear at them regarding Miller and Vanek's status, unless they are dealt. How the team responds to the distractions that their stars' contract situation presents will speak volumes for the maturity of the team and the handle that Ron Rolston has on it. Many expect Miller and Vanek to remain on the team until the trade deadline at the earliest. This would leave months of speculation, opening the door for a media torrent on the Sabres' locker room which seemed to be unstable as it is last season. (Remember Jordan Leopold's "grim reaper" comment after being traded?)
Buffalo's success, or lack there of, will most likely be determined by its ability to come together as a team and block out the distractions, while learning to play together.
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