The 2013 season saw the Buffalo Sabres part ways with coach Lindy Ruff as well as captain Jason Pominville and a handful of other veterans. Somehow, the Sabres still managed 21 wins, and there were a few positive signs for the future. Cody Hodgson emerged as a legitimate star, Thomas Vanek was one of the top scorers in the league and a handful of young prospects got their first shot at NHL duty. One player who got a chance to step up last season was Marcus Foligno, a winger who managed to chip in five goals and 18 points and finish eighth on the team in scoring. Foligno has been impressive in the preseason, and could be poised to help the Sabres even more when the 2013-14 season gets underway.
The Sabres ranked 22nd in the league in goals scored last season, so any boost they can get from Foligno can only help things. The expected top line of Vanek, Hodgson and Ville Leino will score its fair share of goals, but a second line that could feature Foligno, Steve Ott and Drew Stafford should prove to be gritty and dangerous as well. With just 14 NHL games under his belt before last season, Foligno started off in the AHL with the Rochester Americans as a result of the lockout, and had 10 goals and 27 points through 33 games. He played in 47 of the Sabres’ 48 games, and continued to improve on balancing his game by staying out of the penalty box. He has been playing on the top line during the preseason, and had a pair of goals in a win over the Columbus Blue Jackets last Tuesday and a third goal in a shootout loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
The Sabres may still be in rebuilding mode, but if Foligno, Hodgson and the rest of the youngsters there can elevate their play this season, things may not be as bad as what could have been expected.