It’s Official: The NHL Hates the Buffalo Sabres (and apparently the entire Eastern Conference)

Jan 13, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Buffalo Sabres fans during the game between the Buffalo Sabres and the Toronto Maple Leafs at the First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Maple Leafs 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Sorry for the hyperbole in the title, dear Sabres fans, but you have to admit: the NHL didn’t do the Buffalo Sabres any favors when they finalized the new divisional alignment.

Let’s start with the Eastern Conference in general.  I understand that the NHL is probably going to expand in a year or two, but to place 16 teams in the East, versus 14 in the West, is just idiotic.  Each conference has the same amount of playoff spots up for grabs – eight – but if you play out West, you have a greater chance of grabbing one of those 8 spots.  In the East, you better hope you finish in the top three in your division, because there are only two playoff positions being handed out to teams who did not finish in their division’s top three.  Do the math: six teams in the east will win a spot in the playoffs through their divisional record, leaving 10 teams duking it out for the final two playoff spots.  Out west, only 8 teams will fight for the remaining spots – not a huge difference, but a difference that doesn’t need to – and flat-out shouldn’t – exist.  The two conferences should be evenly populated; worry about expansion teams when expansion actually, you know, occurs.

If  Buffalo cannot finish among the division’s top three, then, the Sabres’ playoffs chances lie in their ability to finish with a better record than eight of the ten remaining Eastern Conference teams.  Can it be done?  Certainly.  Will it be easy?  Hell no!   Especially when they play 14 games in March . . . 10 of which are on the road, including a span of  5 straight as the Sabres would be trying to make a late-season playoff push.  And let’s not forget: since Detroit was added to the east, the Eastern Conference actually has nine teams in it that made the playoffs last year (the Western Conference now boasts only seven).  If  eight or even all nine of those teams enjoy the same level of success that they experienced in 2012-2013, the Sabres’ playoffs hopes are dashed before the season even begins, since the final two playoff spots will be gobbled up by teams who played extra hockey last year.

Hmm.  Shooting for the wildcard playoff spots seems to be a longshot, but you can bet the farm – and all of your relatives who live on it – that the Sabres are not going to finish in the top three of the Atlantic Division next season, thanks to the way the NHL stacked the Atlantic Division.  You want to argue with me?  Tell me that the Sabres will be one of the three best teams in a division that includes Boston, Detroit, Toronto, Montreal, and Ottawa (all of whom made the playoffs next year) AND Tampa Bay, whose offense is absolutely disgusting?   Go right ahead; I’ll let the other readers argue for me.

The way the divisions and conference are currently aligned, there is very little chance that you will see new teams qualifying for the playoffs in the east next year – and we are already guaranteed that at least one team who did make the playoffs next year will be left out, as well.  Meanwhile we’re guaranteed to see at least one new team make the playoffs out west next year.   Way to throw a bone to the Western Conference, NHL!  And why don’t you kick the Sabres while they’re down, too?

Look: I’m not seriously arguing that the NHL did any of this in a deliberate attempt to make life tougher for certain teams.  Making the playoffs has always boiled down to a team’s ability to maintain a consistent level of good-to-excellent play, and that hasn’t changed . . . but when one conference is given a clear-cut competitive advantage, for no apparent reason other than an expansion that MAY occur, it is not hyperbole to say that an injustice has been done to the teams in the other conference.  There is no other North American professional sports league that unevenly distributes its teams (except for MLS, who only has 19 teams): the NBA splits 30 teams into 15 and 15; MLB, the same; and the NFL splits 32 teams into conferences of – gasp! – 16 and 16.   Gee – I wonder why they do that?  Congratulations, Gary Bettman and company: you’ve screwed up AGAIN, and boned the Buffalo Sabres, and pretty much every other eastern team that didn’t make the playoffs last season, in the process.

Topics: Buffalo Sabres, NHL

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  • Matt Nolan

    This is not news buttman hates buffalo can’t wait till he’s gone

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      I dream of the day the NHL gets a new Commissioner. Dare to dream, Matt!

      • Kevin

        I honestly don’t think the NHL hates Buffalo, in fact I think they like them. The NHL gets a portion of ticket sales and Sabre fans fill the building every year no matter what. They out number alot of the big cities. As far as the division theory, Well I have grown numb to what Bettman does anymore and just live with it. Just as the team has to. If the Sabres were good enough to be in the top 8 (or whatever it is), all this would be a non factor. They will be, and maybe so will some of they other teams not good enough right now.

        • Matt Nolan

          Well he certainly doesn’t care about his PR around the league he’s repeatedly come out in support of the no goal decision which means he prob doesn’t mind the love loss sure he loves the money and ratings buffalo gives he prob doesn’t hate us but its a mixture

  • mauro zarlenga

    maybe the Sabres should apply to join the West, for the sake balance of course

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      Or the NHL could have just left Detroit out West in the Central Division. That’s the actual, logical course of action. But, I’m discussing logic, so that’s where I lose the NHL.

      • Matt Nolan

        Supposedly Detroit had been asking to come east for a long time and finally got their wish our division is stacked

        • Jes

          compared to the other east division? hells no

  • davidmuscalo

    Perhaps Bettman despises Regier as much most of us Sabres fans.

  • Jes

    I’m sure the NHL doesn’t HATE the Sabres. If it did we would of been sold and moved during that bankruptcy period.

    Balance wise we are screwed until the league expands the west by a couple teams or folds a couple teams in the east. So are the rest of the East teams, not just us. But the realignment was needed. How do you think Detroit and Winnipeg felt doing all that traveling? And remember the Southeast division one of them get into the playoffs with just 80 points while the rest of the clan had 100-90 points. Thank god that’s not happening no more.

    A good move by Bettman, but the playoff situation has to change IMO. Something like the 1st spot in each division is guaranteed and the rest you have to fight for. That makes more sense IMO.

    Other than the problems I’ve highlighted there’s really no problem with it. Other East teams are dealing with the same thing.

  • Troy Berkely

    Tougher division, tougher competition, means getting better in the long run. Who cares how any alignment is going to effect any team? They all have to deal with it, if all people going to do is complain about the schedule, or how many teams in a division, then its missing the point completely, if anything, the division with the weaker schedule and less work load is a disadvantage. Yeah who said life was fair, it is what it is, and you either sink or swim! Now is the time for the team to not be making anymore excuses, and deal with the challenges as an opportunity to get better. There is no other way at looking at it! Period! You want to win, you come back harder! You play 14 road games in one month, prove that your road warriors! Its all about the state of mind, like going to war, and that is what I like to see this team adapting to such attitudes!

    • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

      Most of this post was tongue-in-cheek – making the playoffs in the NHL is always a challenge, obviously. However, creating uneven conferences is 100% idiotic as well as 100% unnecessary. 30 teams should be split into 15 and 15, without question, The West was given an advantage, and however slight it may be, it doesn’t need to exist.

      • Troy Berkely

        For the most part I agree with you, but I like to advocate living in the moment and rising above the challenges. For too long this organization and team wusses out by using excuses ( tough schedule, etc.). If Bettman is bent on making these changes, there is very little one can do, so you prepare your mind set. Just like anything else in life, such as if a person is trying to reach a goal but gets opposition from endless bureaucracy, you either get defeated by it, or you find a solution to get through it. Its all about finding solutions!

        • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

          Very true, sir! I am looking forward to next season – love the idea of watching Detroit! – but it’s almost like the NHL goes of its way to bungle tasks that are actually quite simple. I get so mad, if I don’t write about it now, I’ll be swelling on it when the season begins! Must vent!

          • Troy Berkely

            Well I get it! Its a new era, and a new beginning, we should all embrace it like change and with hopes that Rolston is the man to use applied science to think outside the box, that spells success or a formula that is bold and leaves no prisoners! I too will be looking forward to the new season, though with low expectations, but it will be entertaining to see how the younger players develop, and how this team shapes up, in Marcy’s image.
            BTW keep up the good articles, enjoy reading them!

          • http://SabreNoise.com/ Richard Spalding

            That was pretty funny, Troy! Thanks for the read, as always!

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