The Buffalo Sabres scored 11 goals on their four-game road trip, and still lost three. Hmmm.
The Buffalo Sabres are in extremely rare company this morning.
If you head over to NHL.com and look at the top points scorers in the league, you will notice a few things. For starters, there are eight teams in the NHL that have two players ranked among the league’s top 30 point producers: Tampa Bay, Washington, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, Chicago, Detroit, and Buffalo. Further, there are seven teams that have three or more players ranked among the league’s top 30 – Buffalo included. Finally, there are only three teams in the NHL who can boast they have three players who are ranked among the NHL’s top 15 . . . and yep, Buffalo is one of those three teams.
Awesome, right? Sabres fans were hoping that Phil Housley would take the training wheels off of his players and allow them to play a more creative, fast-paced style of hockey. So far, Evander Kane (5-5-10), Jason Pominville (4-5-9) and Jack Eichel (2-7-9) sure appear to be reaping the benefits of playing under Housley.
Now for the bad news: despite being in the company of greatness, the Buffalo Sabres find themselves in 14th place in the Eastern Conference today, and in the bottom five of the league standings. To fully appreciate how unique a situation this is, consider: with the exception of Washington, every team with at least two top-30 players is currently in playoff contention, and the Capitals are a mere point out.
How is this even possible?
One word, my friends: consistency, or lack thereof.
For whatever reasons, the Buffalo Sabres are a coach’s nightmare. Just when you think the team has figured things out and is primed to make a run – say, following a nice 3-1 road win against the Anaheim Ducks – the players come out looking like they have a case of short-term amnesia – “Wait – we have to play this game on ICE???” – and find themselves in a 4-1 hole on the road in Las Vegas.
It is sad when the Sabres cause a new coach such as Housley to sound exactly like ex-coach Dan Bylsma when talking to the media (all coach and player soundbites courtesy of Buffalo News):
"We had a chance to build on something and I know this is a process but the process was a little broken tonight. The lack of preparation, accountability and urgency to start the game the way we finished was lacking."
Lack of preparation. Lack of accountability. Lack of urgency. For goodness sakes, if you have watched the Sabres play more than once in the past few season, YOU could give the post-game coach interview.
It is astounding to watch a team lose its first five games, finally notch a victory, and then come out looking like “Mission Accomplished.” Every player on this team, especially the ones that were on the roster last season, should open every game with the sort of urgency I would expect from my children if they woke up and realized our house was on fire. Is that too much to ask, that we go the rest of the season without hearing someone like Kane state the obvious “We can’t take periods off and shifts off”? How much longer will the front office hear a player say something like, “Unfortunately it took until the third period to get in the right mindset as a group,” and realize there are some players who just are not playing consistently enough to remain on the roster?
The Buffalo Sabres are a puzzle wrapped in an enigma surrounded by a cloud of toxic waste. They may not be a playoff-caliber team, but they possess enough players that they should at least be in the middle of the pack in the NHL right now. New system and new coach, same results. Looks like the Sabres need a team psychiatrist more than anything right now.