I was standing under the retractable seats of KeyBank Center interviewing Bandits head coach Troy Cordingley after a devastating loss that kept Buffalo out of the postseason when I heard it. Cheers. Loud cheers. Thunderous applause.
What was the cause of all the ruckus - especially after the hometown Bandits had just lost? The Sabres had won the draft lottery. We couldn’t celebrate in the midst of the interview, but we all knew what had happened and couldn’t wait to chat about it after the conversation with Troy.
Happy Dahlin Day!
Today has a different feel to it, doesn’t it? It even seems a little different than the McEichel year! As good as Jack Eichel is, Buffalo fans still (rightfully) felt second best the year that Edmonton won the draft lottery and selected Connor McDavid.
Today IS different. The Sabres are getting the best player in the draft. They won the lottery. They’re getting another generational player. This time; it’s a defenseman.
It can be argued that defensemen are more valuable than forwards. In today’s NHL, top tier defensemen are essential to sustained success. Rasmus Dahlin could be the best defenseman in Sabres history.
He’s certainly the most highly regarded defensive prospect in decades. It feels as though if he turns out to be half as good as he’s projected to be, this will be a very good thing to happen to the Sabres. He’s being compared to Victor Hedman and Erik Karlsson. Time will tell if those comparisons are correct or not.
All of this brings us to another question: Will the Sabres finally turn a corner?
The years upon years of mediocrity have us starving for success. The tank years have us exhausted.
Did the tank work? Yes. The goal of the tank was to guarantee either McDavid or Eichel. They finished last and got their prize.
We’re now learning that one elite level talent at center can’t overcome a terrible team, a piss poor defensive unit and average to below average goaltending (and some pretty good goaltending.) This team needs more talent than it has to be successful.
That’s what Dahlin should bring.
Former Sabres/Americans player Matt Donovan told WGR 550 on Wednesday that Dahlin is the best defenseman he’s ever played with. Matt also said that he considered himself an offensive defenseman but he was nowhere near the level that Dahlin is on.
There are surely more changes coming. Robin Lehner won’t be re-signed in Buffalo. Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Rasmus Ristolainen have their names swirling amongst trade rumors.
The picture will become more clear as time passes this offseason and we all see what the roster will look like on opening day. But ultimately, the picture won’t be clear until halfway through the 2018-19 season. Will this team be competitive? Can they harness the same magic that Colorado did - going from worst to pretty great in one short season?
One thing is for certain; this feels great. Enjoy the day, enjoy the draft and please God let this be the end of bad hockey in Buffalo.