Skip to content

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

Aug 28, 2014, 3:35 PM EST

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. Rangers take the positives out of OT loss to Red Wings

    Mar 5, 2015, 1:04 AM EST

    Cam Talbot AP

    Fighting for tops in the Metropolitan Division.

  2. Video: Hammond, Senators win again

    Mar 5, 2015, 12:19 AM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Winnipeg Jets Getty Images

    What a roll he and the Sens are on.

  3. Video: Iginla reaches 20-goal mark for 16th time in NHL career

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:36 PM EST

    Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche Ottawa Senators v Colorado Avalanche

    He’s been consistently putting the puck in the net at the NHL level since 1996.

  4. Video: Zidlicky’s first goal with Detroit gives Red Wings OT win over Rangers

    Mar 4, 2015, 11:06 PM EST

    Marek Zidlicky, Jesper Fast AP

    What better way to make an impression on new teammates.

  5. Video: Byfuglien leaves game with upper-body injury

    Mar 4, 2015, 9:49 PM EST

    Dustin Byfuglien Getty

    Big Buff out could be a Big Loss for Winnipeg.

  6. Isles’ Martin suspended one game for ‘reckless’ knee on Daley

    Mar 4, 2015, 8:26 PM EST

    MartinDaley

    Also, for causing “significant injury.”

  7. NHL GMs to address emergency goalie rule following Florida incident

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:50 PM EST

    Roberto Luongo, Al Montoya Getty Images

    “It’s definitely an issue that needs a collective focus from our managers and the league in terms of how to deal with it.”

  8. Julien talks up Bergeron as next Bruins captain

    Mar 4, 2015, 6:18 PM EST

    patricebergerongetty Getty Images

    “It’s probably undeniable that down the road when [Chara] is done with his career, if Bergeron is here it would be pretty hard to not make him the next captain.”

  9. Get your game notes: Rangers at Wings, Rivalry Night

    Mar 4, 2015, 5:30 PM EST

    cd0ymzcznguwzdbhnduynddiytjhm2yyzthlmtjjotqwyyznptyzogi1mdrmnjbmndc0odgwmzmyyzm5mmi3zdzjodlj AP

    An Original Six matchup at the Joe.

  10. Season over? Clarkson out 4-6 weeks with torn oblique muscle

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:43 PM EST

    New Jersey Devils v Columbus Blue Jackets Getty Images

    Has appeared in just three games for the Blue Jackets since being traded from Toronto.

  11. TVR to play this weekend for Rockford (AHL)

    Mar 4, 2015, 4:13 PM EST

    Trevor van Riemsdyk Getty Images

    ‘Hawks are hoping he can “recapture” his early-season form.

Featured video

Reactions from NHL trade deadline
Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. K. Okposo (2808)
  2. H. Lundqvist (2773)
  3. M. Giordano (2730)
  4. F. Andersen (2678)
  5. T. Seguin (2440)
  1. H. Zetterberg (2366)
  2. N. Horton (2335)
  3. T. Hall (2072)
  4. P. Sharp (1900)
  5. D. Clarkson (1875)