Buffalo Sabres Halfway Point- Now What?

Last night’s 4-3 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes marked the Buffalo Sabres 24th game which officially brings them to the halfway point of the shortened 2013 season. So far, despite only playing 24 games, this has been a crazy up and down season for the boys in blue and gold. They’ve had a coaching change, a suspension, had the NHL’s leading goal scorer and the power play doesn’t seem to know how to score. Whatever your take on the first 24 games for the Sabres one thing is clear- they’ve under-performed and now have  a massive hole to climb out of to see the postseason.

A 9-13-2 record is nothing short of embarrassing. For a team that has an all-star netminder, a former Calder winner on the blue line, tons of young talent with

Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

endless potential and solid veteran leaders and for a team that was supposed to have a “huge year” and make a deep playoff run things aren’t looking too promising. At the rate the Sabres are playing they’re going to end up with 40 points, but the 8th place New York Rangers are on pace to end the year with 50 points. The Sabres would have to finish the season 15-9 at the very least to have any shot at making the post season. Another thing that will come back to bite the Sabres is the fact they’ve played more games (24) than anyone in the Eastern Conference (except the Flyers); the Rangers who hold that final playoff spot have 3 games in hand on the Sabres!

The end of March will not be kind to the Sabres who desperately need to string together a long win streak to get some confidence going down the stretch.  The season’s fate could easily be decided in the next week. The Sabres will face off against the Rangers, Flyers, Capitals, the first place Canadiens (2x), the surging Leafs, the red hot Senators and to add insult to injury the Boston Bruins. During this run in March against some of the top teams in the Eastern Conference we will find out a lot about this Sabres team and new head coach Ron Rolston. Last year’s team put together a Cinderella run late in the season but even that effort saw them fall just short of the playoffs.

What We Know

  • The Sabres are a much better team under Rolston.  They’re stronger as a unit and they don’t ever give up (last night’s near comeback and the shorthanded goal to tie it against the Rangers.)
  • Goaltending is not the issue. If you think Ryan Miller has been the problem this season watch this clip and then stop pretending to know anything about hockey. Miller has played more games than any other goalie (22 thanks to Jhonas Enroth), has face the most shots (723) and still has managed a solid .914 Save Percentage. Ryan Miller has been standing on his head and giving this team a chance to win every night. If the defence was a little better and actually helped him his 2.83 Goals Against would be a lot lower.
  • The line of Marcus Foligno, Tyler Ennis and Drew Stafford has not performed and in fact isn’t even a line anymore! The 3 players have just 10 goals combined (7 of them from Ennis).
  • Thomas Vanek started the year off red hot becoming the leading scorer in the NHL, he’s cooled off a little bit as of late but with 12 goals and 16 assists through 21 games you can’t fault him at all! Cody Hodgson and Jason Pominville have also enjoyed the benefits of playing on a line with Vanek; the three players seem to have found great chemistry.
  • Steve Ott has been the best acquisition for this Sabres team. You can’t say enough about a player like Ott who gives his heart and soul each and every game and is willing to do anything for the team.  He’s helped get Nathan Gerbe game going again and even led all forwards in ice-time last night.
  • Our defence has been pitiful, in fact we virtually haven’t had a “defence” this season it’s basically been Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek all year. Tyler Myers is having a season to forget with a -6 and only 4 points; he really needs to pick up his game and become a leader on the blue line.

Although it’s tough to admit it may be time to pull the plug on the 2013 season which is clinging on to life support. Why bust your chops to fall just short of the playoffs when you can stay near the bottom and help your chances for a high pick to land a player like Jonathan Drouin or Seth Jones?

With 24 games left before playoffs, the Sabres need nothing short of a miracle to have a shot at the postseason. Why does it seem like every season we dig ourselves a hole that is near impossible to climb out of? Why does it always seem like the Sabres are coming from behind? It would nice if the Sabres could get out to a great start and be near the top of the Eastern Conference winning games to make teams, who are playing like this years Sabres, fall further behind the playoffs. For whatever reason this team goes into the season which such great expectations and optimism, yet by the midway point they’re vitrually out of contention. On paper this is a solid team what’s going wrong from paper to ice?