BUFFALO, N.Y. - After finishing one of the worst seasons in franchise history, Sabres General Manager Jason Botterill promised that the Sabres roster would undergo a massive overhaul. Botterill was a man of his word over the last few months; he acquired Jeff Skinner, Conor Sheary and Tage Thompson from trades, dealt away Ryan O'Reilly, signed Carter Hutton, and let Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson walk in free agency. The newest Sabres say they can't wait to try and turn around a struggling franchise.
"I only knew one or two guys coming in here. It's a good group of guys," says Jeff Skinner, a three-time 30-goal scorer. "I'm excited for the year and excited to get to know them more."
"I think our management has done a terrific job addressing the change, and our acquisitions," says head coach Phil Housley. "The new mentality and mindset of our players coming into our camp. There's an excitement."
"We want to be in the playoffs, and we want to be a contender," says Carter Hutton, a goalie who went 17-7-3 last year. "We also understand that having younger guys in the lineup, you're gonna take your bumps and bruises. I think from day one here, we're going to build to win games here and be a better team. As a veteran, I think my job is to come in here and help create that culture and win hockey games."
"We got a lot of new faces and a lot of the young guys are going to play a big role," says two-time Stanley Cup champion Conor Sheary. "Hopefully I can be a part of that, and we can get this team back into the playoffs and hopefully contend for a Stanley Cup."
Sheary was especially complimentary towards Jack Eichel, the Sabres' cornerstone centerman. Sheary says the 21-year-old is already a star in the NHL despite two serious ankle injuries. Eichel acknowledged that last year's team was plagued by pessimism, especially toward the end of the season.
"It was sort of inevitable with the way things went last year. I knew changes were going to be made," he says. "There was a lot of negative and a lot of bad, and I think we put it behind us at this point. Last year was last year. I think the guys in the room now are excited about the opportunity they have."
Eichel and his teammates begin practices Friday morning at HarborCenter.