Skip to content

Is Colorado’s rise a fair example of what might happen in Buffalo?

Aug 28, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT

Chris Stewart Getty Images

The Buffalo Sabres are frankly expected to be one of the worst teams in the league in 2014-15. It’s easy to see why: They’re a rebuilding club coming off of a season where they posted a 21-51-10 record. They could have added six wins last season and still finished in last place. For that matter, they could have scored 37 more goals and still ranked 30th offensively.

The short-term situation is so bleak that there are Sabres fans rooting against their team as they’ve already abandoned hope of them being competitive next season and just want them to be able to draft a potential superstar in Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel.

Chris Stewart, who came to Buffalo from St. Louis in February as part of the Ryan Miller trade, doesn’t want the fanbase to write the Sabres off.

“Look at the Colorado Avalanche two years ago,” Stewart recently said. “They were a last-place team, and they were arguably one of the best teams in the league last year. So the past is the past. You look at our team now and there are 13 or 14 new faces. So we come in and think of last year as an anomaly.”

Of course you’d be hard pressed to find a player that wants to lose or, for that matter, one that is going to paint anything other than an optimistic picture going into the season, but does Stewart have a point? Does Buffalo have a chance to follow in Colorado’s footsteps?

Let’s move past the obvious answer, which is: Of course. Anything can happen, so obviously there’s a chance that Buffalo will make the playoffs. But is it a big enough one to give Stewart’s argument validity?

Well, first off, he is correct that the team will look very different than the one that opened the 2013-14 season, which right off the bat actually makes this story a lot different than the one in Colorado. The Avalanche team that surprised the hockey world in 2013-14 wasn’t substantially altered from the one finished with a 16-25-7 record in the lockout shortened 2013 campaign.

Additionally, different isn’t automatically better. The Sabres have lost Ryan Miller and Thomas Vanek for example and you can make an argument that no one on their current roster is better than those two players — at least not yet as some of their youngsters have high ceilings.

A few things did change in Colorado though. Patrick Roy took over as the team’s head coach and, in addition to giving them new hope, he joined goalie coach Francois Allaire in helping Semyon Varlamov take a huge step forward. Varlamov was at the center of the Avalanche’s success as they were bombarded with shots all season and relied on him to stand tall.

Meanwhile, Buffalo struggled largely in spite of Miller’s goaltending last season so while the new combination of Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth might prove to be solid, the single biggest change that bolstered the Avalanche wouldn’t have quite the same effect on the Sabres.

What Buffalo needs is for its defense to improve, but more than that, they need someone to find the back of the net. Colorado saw its offense improve in part thanks to a strong rookie season from Nathan MacKinnon and while the Sabres have some promising young forwards that might step up, they have a far bigger gap to overcome.

The Avalanche’s offense wasn’t great in the lockout shortened campaign, but Buffalo’s offense last season was statistically the worst of the 21st century.

It’s that gap that will be difficult for the Sabres to overcome in a single campaign. They do have some noteworthy scoring threats such as Matt Moulson, Cody Hodgson, and Tyler Ennis, but their top two lines don’t look overly promising on paper.

So maybe Colorado isn’t an ideal example for Buffalo, but the thing about a young team is that you never know quite what will happen. It seems realistic to assume that this will be a season of growing pains for the Sabres, but if they find their groove early in the season, then they might surprise people.

Latest Posts
  1. Video: Filppula, Stamkos score two big goals for Bolts

    May 24, 2015, 9:36 PM EDT

    filppulagetty Getty Images

    The Lightning are 7-0 when scoring the first goal in the playoffs.

  2. Blackhawks’ Bickell says wear-and-tear goes both ways

    May 24, 2015, 9:15 PM EDT

    Anaheim Ducks v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Three Getty Images

    Blocking shots can be a grind, too, after all.

  3. Report: Blues will stick with Hitchcock ‘barring anything dramatic’

    May 24, 2015, 7:37 PM EDT

    Chicago Blackhawks v St Louis Blues Getty Images

    No clarification on what would qualify as “dramatic.”

  4. Franson on free agency: ‘I’m hopeful that Toronto’s in the mix’

    May 24, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT

    cody franson

    Things weren’t a “perfect fit” for the blue liner in Nashville.

  5. Report: Oilers’ Nelson given permission to explore other opportunities

    May 24, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT

    Todd Nelson Todd Nelson

    He coached Edmonton to a 17-25-9 record after Dallas Eakins was fired in December.

  6. Report: Dubnyk, Wild to begin contract talks this week

    May 24, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Minnesota Wild v Chicago Blackhawks - Game Two Getty Images

    He’s set to become an unrestricted free agent in July.

  7. Bolts’ Carle available for Game 5

    May 24, 2015, 12:30 PM EDT

    Matt Carle Getty Images

    He missed Game 4 due to an undisclosed injury.

  8. Report: Bylsma to meet with Sabres this week

    May 24, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT

    Dan Bylsma Dan Bylsma

    He has not coached since being fired by the Penguins last June.

  9. Pens looking to acquire a first round pick

    May 24, 2015, 9:43 AM EDT

    2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7 2014 NHL Draft - Round 2-7

    GM Jim Rutherford has already begun talking with teams, which have multiple selections in the Top 30.

Featured video

Babcock has his work cut out in Toronto
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. F. Andersen (1507)
  2. S. Crosby (1391)
  3. M. Carle (1354)
  4. N. Horton (1350)
  5. K. Versteeg (1291)