Aug 28, 2014, 3:35 PM EST
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.
“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.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:54 PM EST
Was run over by Erik Condra.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:18 PM EST
Extends point streak to five games.
Nov 25, 2014, 9:11 PM EST
Remains in the game.
Nov 25, 2014, 8:45 PM EST
After 18 seasons, he’s done.
Nov 25, 2014, 8:00 PM EST
The 19-year-old rookie will be sticking in the NHL this season.
Nov 25, 2014, 7:45 PM EST
Chris Thorburn dropped the gloves with the Jackets tough guy.
Nov 25, 2014, 7:15 PM EST
He’s been a healthy scratch in three straight games.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:48 PM EST
Sharks forward has undergone months of rehab on his surgically-repaired knee.
Nov 25, 2014, 5:04 PM EST
“Let’s get real. Finding top-four defensemen, they’re not available,” says GM Dean Lombardi.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:35 PM EST
And rightly so.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:27 PM EST
Alex Mallet for Andrey Pedan, specifically.
Nov 25, 2014, 4:15 PM EST
Bojangles. That’s a funny name.
Nov 25, 2014, 3:31 PM EST
News and notes from around the crease…
Nov 25, 2014, 3:31 PM EST
“I would rather fight than turtle or anything like that.”
Nov 25, 2014, 2:36 PM EST
This is… surprising.
Nov 25, 2014, 2:25 PM EST
Cory Schneider to “see what kind of player he is” tonight.
Nov 25, 2014, 2:01 PM EST
The Blue Jackets, Flyers, Avalanche, Stars, and Sharks all made the playoffs last season. But they’re not in position now.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:47 PM EST
GM Dale Tallon reportedly wants to make room for some youngsters.
Nov 25, 2014, 1:25 PM EST
For the first time since Nov. 1.
Nov 25, 2014, 12:38 PM EST
That’s a picture of former first-rounder Alex Plante.
- Video: Stars’ Klingberg scores from center ice 1
- Report: Alfredsson retirement to be announced Dec. 4 4
- On the odds of fighting back after Thanksgiving 6
- Why are the Oilers still bad? Look at their drafting 20
- The Leafs are worth almost seven times the Panthers, says Forbes 15
- Isles make some history; Are the Flyers headed for trouble? 42
- Crosby, Malkin power Penguins, help Fleury grab 300th win 5
- Sooner than later? Bruins GM hopes Chara can return in 10-14 days 1
- With worst save percentage in NHL, Oilers fire goalie coach 22
- Pat Quinn, ‘one of hockey’s most respected individuals,’ has died 14
- Video: Milan Lucic calls Dalton Prout one-punch ‘gutless’ (99)
- Prout drops Lucic: ‘As far as I was concerned we were engaged in a fight’ (88)
- The Leafs didn’t salute their fans last night, so that’s a thing now (79)
- Jack Johnson filed for bankruptcy, parents allegedly took advantage of him (58)
- Bruins’ Lucic expected to play against Habs after getting one-punched (Updated) (47)