We are roughly five weeks away from the February 27th NHL trade deadline. It has been no secret that the Buffalo Sabres organization, whether it be the Coach, General Manager or countless players, needs a drastic change.
The Sabres currently sit nine points out of a playoff spot with thirty-five games left in the regular season. To put that in perspective: If the 8th-place team, the Washington Capitals, who have thirty-six games remaining, play .500% hockey the rest of the way, they would earn thirty-six points (giving them 88 points). The Sabres, to overtake just the Capitals, would have to finish their last thirty-five games with a record of 23-12.
Were the Sabres playing any type of inspired brand of hockey, I would have no doubt that a run like that could be possible. However, with only nine wins since November 12th, and the fact that no team in the last half century has overcome a nine-point deficit with less than 40 games to go, it’s very unlikely that any such run is realistic.
Also, factor in that many players on the team have all but mailed it in, some for much of the season, others more recent (and more blatant), and you don’t end up holding out much hope for a “march to the playoffs”.
It seems to me, from watching this team intently every night, that the players have quit not only on coach Lindy Ruff, but on each other. With the naked eye, there seems to be a disturbing lack of interaction between some of the players. While I won’t claim any type of inside information (at least not today), from my perspective (and I’m sure the players, coaches, management, etc. would deny it) it seems that there is a division, or divisions, within the team. A dressing room can be a funny thing, trying to get twenty guys on the same page, professionally and personally.
If this is indeed fact, and there is a irreparable rift in that room, it’s up to Darcy Regier (as current General Manager) to identify the problems and remove them. Whether that can be accomplished this year, or goes into this summer, remains to be seen. There’s no guarantee Regier is even around to architect such a housecleaning.
Keeping the faith in this team has been the most difficult thing this fan has had to endure in at least a decade. From touting their new, free-agent pickups and trades last summer, to gushing over a dream-come-true owner, many of us were guilty of perhaps putting too high of expectations on this team. Why couldn’t they have made it to the conference finals? It didn’t seem so far-fetched. All-world goalie, revamped defense, and a top-ten offense. What’s not to like?
We forgot about the one, most important, ever-vital piece that all great teams need to succeed: Heart.
If the Sabres manage to pull it off, and squeak into the playoffs, it will have been one of the most amazing turnarounds in NHL history. Barring any game-changing trades in the next few days (because let’s face it, they can’t really wait until the deadline), any transformation in heart, desire, and compete level will have to come from within that dressing room.
Who’s holding their breath?
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