What Is Wrong with the Buffalo Sabres? Let Us Count the Ways

Matthew Jordan

Wednesday, November 22, 2017 6:08 PM UTC

Wednesday, Nov. 22, 2017 6:08 PM UTC

The Buffalo Sabres were expected to take a step forward this season, but that has certainly not been the case yet for one of the worst bets in the NHL. Let’s dissect all this team’s issues.

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It’s a rough time to be a fan of the two professional sports teams in the city of Buffalo. The Bills have the longest active playoff drought in the NFL, and that doesn’t seem all that likely to change in 2017 with new coach Sean McDermott trading off key pieces and making very questionable quarterback decisions.

The NHL’s Sabres haven’t won a playoff round since 2007, haven’t made the postseason at all since 2011 and haven’t finished with a winning record since 2012. I actually thought they had a decent shot at making the playoffs this season after some solid offseason players moves and the hiring of a new general manager in Jason Botterill and coach in Phil Housley, a Hall of Fame defensemen.

Alas, the only team worse in the NHL as of this writing is the Arizona Coyotes, who never expected to be good in 2017-18 as they rebuild around young players. But, hey, I might have turned Arizona’s season around by recently recommending to bet against the Yotes every game – only for them to go on a bit of a winning streak. (They might have more points than the Sabres by the time you read this.)

Buffalo has the fewest points in the East and the worst goal differential. It ranks 31st in scoring, 30th on the power play and 28th in goals-against. It is a +10000 long shot at Bovada to win the Eastern Conference. Other than that, “How was the play Mrs. Lincoln”?

So where to point the blame?

First, I would look toward supposed superstar Jack Eichel, who in early October signed an eight-year, $80 million extension. Of course, Eichel was the No. 2 overall pick in 2015 behind reigning Hart Trophy winner Connor McDavid. Eichel has not played like a franchise player this season and recently was demoted to the third line between Zemgus Girgensons and Jason Pominville – although that may have been simply a temporary wake-up call.

Sometimes, it looks like Eichel isn’t trying all that hard, isn’t much of a leader and is a flat-out liability on defense. Check out this from Buffalo News writer Mike Harrington: “Eichel’s body language has been terrible much of season. It’s a dirty little secret fans are finally figuring out that he floats off the ice far too much on the end of his shifts.”

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Isn't it beautiful? 😍

Available at the @SabresStore starting at 5pm today.

More on our #WinterClassic jersey: https://t.co/RJwi9MaQvV pic.twitter.com/KfGP5uvGkG

— Buffalo Sabres (@BuffaloSabres) November 22, 2017

The Sabres only have four players with double-digit points in Evander Kane, Eichel, Ryan O’Reilly and Pominville. Kyle Okposo has been a major bust, and he’s making $6 million a season. The group on the blueline is one of the worst in the NHL, a big reason that Buffalo ranks 27th in possession -- the Sabres can’t keep teams out of their end of the ice.

One bit of help could be on the way soon in defenseman Zack Bogosian, who has yet to play this season due to a lower-body injury but is close. The team has yet to have its anticipated top six defensemen in Rasmus Ristolainen (also hurt), Bogosian, Marco Scandella, Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe and Victor Antipin available for the same game yet. In addition, the 1-2 punch in net of Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson is … blah. Both are probably better suited to be a backup.

On the bright side, the Sabres will be featured nationally in the New Year’s Day Winter Classic against the Rangers at Citi Field in New York. So there’s that to look forward to.

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