The Bear Essentials By Mark Feldman, 98.5 The Sports Hub

BOSTON (CBS)  – With the regular season around the corner, it’s time to take a look at the top Eastern Conference teams that will give your Boston Bruins their fair share of difficulties this year.

It started with Tampa Bay Lightning, and then went to the Montreal Canadiens. Now we head to a team that is looking for a resurgence after a couple of down years.

There’s something happening up in Buffalo; A resurrection of sorts. A new era is set to start in the “Nickel City” and it may be to the detriment of your Boston Bruins. With new ownership and some serious off-season moves, the Buffalo Sabres have become a legitimate hockey team.

Let’s be honest, the franchise has been decent over the past several years, sure,  but we’re talking about something bigger; maybe even Stanley Cup contenders.

Now before you lose your mind, hear me out on this. Here are four reasons why the Buffalo Sabres will be a powerhouse this season.

1. Ownership

Historically, the Sabres have been one of the cheapest teams in the NHL. In 2003, things got so bad that they were forced to file for bankruptcy. Eight years later, thanks to a man by the name of Terry Pegula, those days seem to be long behind them.  Needless to say, Pegula is not afraid to spend money. And spend he has. For the first time in franchise history the team is not restricted by a tight budget. With his wallet wide open, Pegula will have a long-term impact on the success of this team.

Read: Mark Feldman’s Blog: The Bear Essentials

2. Defense

Remember that Christian Ehrhoff guy; the one that played defense for the president’s trophy winning Vancouver Canucks last year? Yeah  him. Well he’s now on the Sabres and after signing a ten-year, $40 million deal,  expect him to be a force this upcoming season. Without a doubt, his presence alone will improve the Sabres power play unit. Next, a guy by the name of Robyn Regehr has joined the defensive core. Having formerly played for the Calgary Flames, Regehr is a tough skater and will most definitely provide some grit to this team. He will be paired with Tyler Myers, an up and coming young talent set to have a break out year. With those 3 players, Buffalo will become a strong penalty killing, power play scoring team.

3. Off-Season Moves

The Sabres have made some of the best off-season moves in the entire league. We already mentioned the revamping of their defense with such signings as Ehrhoff and Regehr but it doesn’t stop there. They’re offense will get a boost as well with the inclusion of Ville Leino. Leino is coming off a 53-point season with the Philadelphia Flyers and is a skilled and versatile player. He can play all three forward positions and will further add to the power play unit.

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4. World Class Goalie

It feels like people forgot about Ryan Miller this last season. Without an Olympic run and not much to show for in the postseason, Miller, much like the rest of his team, faded into obscurity. I’m sure that will change this year.  Miller is back and he is rested. I am convinced that the Olympic run and NHL schedule two years ago has had a significant impact on his performance. Having completed a normal season, the world-class goaltender is back in his groove. With a strong defense in front of him, I wouldn’t be surprised if he became a Vezina candidate in 2012.

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With new management, a strong defense and a top-notch goaltender, the people in Buffalo finally got themselves a good team. The biggest negative to draw from the off-season was their inability to acquire a number one center.  I personally don’t think it’s a big deal. Much like the Bruins, the Sabres have a group of strong players that can get the job done. The necessity of possessing a number one player seems to be over-hyped. Once the season starts and the chemistry develops, this Sabres team will prove to be quite an obstacle for your Boston Bruins to overcome.

Follow Mark Feldman on Twitter @mfsports21


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