Mythbusting! No, the Buffalo Sabres are NOT a hopeless NHL team

BUFFALO, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Owen Power #25 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center on September 27, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images)
BUFFALO, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 27: Owen Power #25 of the Buffalo Sabres looks on during the second period against the Philadelphia Flyers at KeyBank Center on September 27, 2022 in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Joshua Bessex/Getty Images) /

The Athletic claimed the Buffalo Sabres as one of 10 hopeless NHL teams. However, that assumption couldn’t be more wrong. 

While I will concede and state that it would take a miracle for the Buffalo Sabres to win the Stanley Cup or even finish in the top three in the Atlantic this season, it’s rather farfetched to claim they are among the NHL’s most hopeless teams going into 2022-23. No, this isn’t a great team, and they are also a team that probably isn’t playoff bound.

But to place them into the hopeless category is a stretch. Sure, they have three rookies projected to see extended ice time, and perhaps a few more will as the season wears on. And yes, they are young with players like Peyton Krebs, Dylan Cozens, Mattias Samuelsson, and even Rasmus Asplund, who have yet to hit their prime.

Case in point: This team is probably not making the playoffs. And for a team that nearly succumbed to the injury bug last season before embarking on a roll once healthy, it’s certainly premature to project a 3% chance at making the playoffs and a measly 76 points.

What was The Athletic’s take on why they feel the above numbers are most likely correct? Here’s a quote to remember:

"“Why they’re probably right: It’s the Sabres. They haven’t made the playoffs in 11 years and counting, the longest streak in NHL history. They’re not making it this year either.” – via Sean McIndoe."

My take? They are one of the most hopeless teams in hockey “because it’s the Sabres.” I’m sure that’s why no one predicted the NFL’s Cincinnati Bengals to win the AFC Championship last season. The Bengals are the Bengals, there’s no way they can win the AFC or even come remotely close to the playoffs! Until they did, that is, beating the Kansas City Chiefs twice in the process.

The Buffalo Sabres have more hope than many believe

The only part of the above quote I agree with is the final part. To an extent, anyway. It claims the Sabres aren’t making it in 2022-23, despite the previously projected 3% chance. Hey, I’m not giving them much of a chance either, but it’s also wise to look beyond a few pieces of paper when making such predictions.

And on paper, the Buffalo Sabres look like the same team from last season. Until you really dig deep and realize they played in far too many games utilizing taxi squads and prospects between December 2021 and February 2022. When this supposed same group of Sabres that we will see this season got together in March, they actually looked like an NHL team several times over.

The article also claimed the Jack Eichel trade kicked off the rebuild. Which is wrong. The 2020 NHL Draft, the first of the Kevyn Adams era, kicked off the rebuild. That draft netted Jack Quinn and J.J. Peterka, two of those rookies I mentioned earlier that will be in the lineup next week.

Not only did the Buffalo Sabres own the Vegas Golden Knights in the Jack Eichel trade; they also found two more key contributors in Alex Tuch and Peyton Krebs, who also happen to be in the projected lineup.

Dahlin has yet to re-establish himself?

Did Dahlin take the season off? Were we watching a Rasmus Dahlin look alike light up the league last season, or something? Take this quote:

"“And let’s say that happens at the same time Rasmus Dahlin finally breaks through and re-establishes himself in that Makar/Adam Fox/Seider tier of young defensemen.” – via Sean McIndoe"

Dahlin represented the Buffalo Sabres in the 2022 All-Star Game. He also scored 53 points, knocking down 13 goals and 40 assists. Sure, his game had its flaws, but he also established himself as a two-way player and earned a Top 20 ranking among NHL defensemen.

While Dahlin isn’t Cale Makar (yet), he re-established himself in 2021-22, thanks to the good old Don Granato EffectOverall, the Sabres have two promising young defenseman with two-way tendencies, one of which played in the 2022 All-Star Game and seemed to get better as the season wore on.

When the team got healthy, not only did Dahlin’s game improve; but so did the forwards. Tage Thompson and Victor Olofsson especially benefited, and even Casey Mittelstadt showed better production than what he gave us in the past.

Jeff Skinner also re-established himself in 2021-22, and Tuch hit the ground running when he made his debut with the Buffalo Sabres. Add in two big hitters with Ilya Lyubushkin and Henri Jokiharju, and the Sabres have far more hope than most people realize in NHL spheres.

Related Story. October 2022 will be a gauntlet for the Sabres. light

So don’t let others in the NHL universe dictate the way you think about your Buffalo Sabres. Sure, they are pretty much the same team taking the ice on paper. But that team is healthier, one year older, one year smarter, and one year more established than they were in March and April 2022. And they will surprise a fair share of people this season.

Article Source: Finding hope for NHL’s 10 most hopeless teams: Do you believe in miracles? by Sean McIndoe