As the start of the NHL season inches closer, it’s never too early to start breaking down some of the key areas we’ll hope to see some improvement this year. The stats don’t lie, and in this segment we‘ll take a look at the softer points of last year’s squad.
Shots Against Per Game
To start things off, I’ll begin with one of the Sabres weakest areas last year; shots against. And of course this leads to a higher goals against average. The only thing that comes to mind in this category is atrocious. Last in the league in this stat column won’t get you very far, and this stems from their defense. There’s no question this needs to improve and they need to ease pressure off of their poor tenders. Without Ryan Miller in net, things could have gotten a lot uglier last season.
A high number of SA/G also stems from puck control and game management. The Sabres were very poor in this area and there’s no excuse for this at the NHL level. There were far too many intances last year where it looked like they were a man down for the majority of a game. I wont be able to stomach another season of this team failing to maintain offensive pressure and simply allowing the opposition to take shooting practice on Miller.
Face Off %
Another area to point out that leads into puck control was their Face-Off Percentage, where only the Edmonton Oilers had a worse stat than Buffalo. Not only was this a weak point, but it came at critical moments on the ice where a face-off win could have made a difference in late game situations.
Power Play %
Another miserable looking stat for this team last year was their man-up advantage, ending the year with a whopping 14.1% conversion rate and second to last in the entire league. Why even bother having players like Steve Ott & Patrick Kaleta who are out there to manufacturer power-play opportunities, when their offense never seems to capitalize. The Sabres desperately needs consistent play-makers because let’s face it, Thomas Vanek wont be around forever and many will be shocked if he even lasts the season in Buffalo.
Following a .500 team all season sucks, and honestly, the Sabres were lucky to even be there. I realize were currently in “rebuild” mode, but I’m tired of mediocrity with this team. By the time May rolls around, I still want to be able to turn on my TV and see the Buffalo Sabres competing in the postseason. Missing the playoffs 4 out of the last 6 seasons is not cutting it for this franchise.
The stat categories listed above only touch on a few of the glaring weak points that plagued this team last year. The reality is that the Sabres landed in the bottom half of the league in the majority of team statistics, with little if any bright spots to show for last season. With ticket prices on the rise in Buffalo, Sabres fans have every right to expect better out of their team.