Well here they are again, on the what went wrong platform. Maybe, and I know this may be hard for some of you to handle but maybe, just maybe Buffalo actually just sucks. No that couldn’t possibly be it because they have the talent to get it done. So why has it not got “done”, well because they are terrible plain and simple.
On the bright side, the Sabres have one thing going for them though drafting Rasmus Dahlin with the 1st overall pick, the only thing for the Sabres is Dahlin and Eichel right now. But the Sabres finished 31st in the NHL posting a 25-45-12 record ranking 31st in goals for(198), 3rd in goals against(278)22nd in penalty kill percentage(77.9), 20th in power play percentage(19.1). All in all the Sabres again struggled and have nothing but excuses for another poor season. Some of the reasons Buffalo went down the loser side again is because of…
What went wrong…
(1) A new coach, I’ll give them that, they were dealing with a different coach, different systems and it is tough to adjust quickly on the fly under new management especially when your team is battling injuries the coach has to make adjustments based off players he does not know too well, it’s tough so they’ll get the fact Phil Housley was new, but no excuses next year.
(2) Another year of under performing by Robin Lehner. For some reason and I fully back this because I thought Lehner was going to be better but a lot of people thought like “oh Lehner is at the brink of a new deal hes playing for a contract hes going to perform this year.” What were we thinking, he definitely wants to leave Buffalo so he played a mediocre season and said alright I’m ready to go, which also played into Buffalo’s poor season. Lehner posted a 14-26-9 with a 3.01 GAA and .908 save percentage. Pretty bad numbers for a starting goalie, but he is not all to blame but definitely a piece to the messy pie in Buffalo.
(3) James Pominville, Kyle Okposo, Josh Gorges, Marco Scandella, Benoit Poulit all did nothing this year some of these players Buffalo signed to make a difference and help them be more competitive but they did the opposite. Okposo posted 44 points in 76 games, Pominville 34 in 82 games, that’s real bad, Scandella 22 points, -15 in 82 games, Poulit 19 points in 74 games I mean three forwards that were suppose to be veteran guys just did not get the job done. Something needs to be re tooled in Buffalo maybe the veteran style is not what you need anymore, I mean only every other team in the NHL has realized that by now, but we’ll wait for you to catch on Buff.
(4) Eichel and Ristolainen not playing full years, these are Buffalo’s two best players, and Eichel has played now one full season his rookie year but the last two years have been cut short due to injuries, and when he is playing he makes an impact surely, not having this guy for 15 games will play a factor into your teams success. Ristolainen as well has played 2 full seasons in his five years, and if he did not get hurt this year would have been on his way to a career high points. 41 points in 73 games for a defenseman is pretty solid numbers especially when that’s a Buffalo defenseman.
Really there is not much to say about the Sabres I think we touched on all the major reasons, they had a poor defense, very little offensive production, a new coach, an under performing goalie and yet again high expectations that should not be placed on them.
Will things get better next year for Buffalo?
Probably… I mean they are getting Dahlin, Eichel back healthy, hopefully a healthy Ristolianen, paired with Dahlin will be awesome to watch. They have Ryan O’Reilly who can be a solid top center in the league, he did come out and say he was dealing with personal struggles this year. Casey Mittlestadt coming up, Alex Nylander, Even Rodrigues who played some NHL time last year so he has experience under his belt now, Cliff Pu and a list of other prospects who can be of use for this Sabres team. How much better not a lot probably, they will be in the basement again I would say, maybe a little higher in their division, but around 10 games below .500 which is great for Buffalo but nothing special.
Sign a goalie: Lehner’s contract expired so either resign(don’t do) or find someone else. Chad Johnson’s contract is up as well. Carter Hutton, Jaroslav Halak, Jonathan Brenier, Eddie Lack, Anton Khubdoin are all available so one someone needs to be landed. Will they be the answer to the goalie sitaution, probably not. Maybe a trade will do?
They need to resign Sam Reinhart and Viktor Antipin now while keeping in mind, Rodrigues, Larsson, Pomminville, Girgensons in 2019-20 so they are going to be doing some re-tooling. Would not be surprised if Reinhart is traded or not resigned by the way.
Develop your young players and actually play Mittlestadt, Rodrigues, Pu, Nylander, Dahlin, Eichel all year and don’t swap them out when they are doing badly for two games.