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. Blues re-sign Jaskin to one-year contract

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT

    Getty Images

    Scored 13 goals in 54 games last season.

  2. Sabres sign veteran d-man Colaiacovo

    Jul 3, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT

    Getty Images

    Buffalo also signed Cal O’Reilly, who played last season with the AHL Utica Comets.

  3. Brandon Saad brings championship experience to Blue Jackets

    Jul 3, 2015, 6:43 PM EDT

    AP

    He signed a six-year, $36 million deal with Columbus.

  4. Sharks sign Joel Ward to three-year deal

    Jul 3, 2015, 5:44 PM EDT

    Getty Images

    “Joel is a quality veteran player who can score but also plays an extremely hard-nosed brand of hockey.”

  5. ‘Canes hire ex-Florida assistant Morris for AHL gig

    Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT

    Brings a wealth of success, experience at AHL, collegiate levels.

  6. Locked in: Columbus signs Saad to six-year, $36M deal

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT

    150611_Saad Getty Images

    “This long-term commitment that assures he will be an important part of our team for years to come.”

  7. Larkin, Mantha in tough to make Red Wings roster, says Holland

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT

    AnthonyMantha

    “They gotta come in and knock somebody out of the box.”

  8. Flyers sign Colin McDonald

    Jul 3, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT

    New York Islanders v New Jersey Devils Getty Images

    A one-year, two-way deal for the ex-Islander.

  9. Jets re-sign Maurice’s coaching staff

    Jul 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT

    Winnipeg Jets v Colorado Avalanche Getty Images

    Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent and Wade Flaherty all inked three-year extensions.

  10. Blues re-sign Allen for two years

    Jul 3, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT

    Jake Allen AP

    Expected to battle Brian Elliott for the starting role in St. Louis.

  11. Oilers sign McDavid to entry-level contract

    Jul 3, 2015, 12:23 PM EDT

    Connor McDavid AP

    “It’s an exciting time to be a part of this organization.”

  12. Quick hits: Caps give Bourque two-year, two-way deal

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT

    Nashville Predators v Washington Capitals Getty Images

    Bobby Sanguinetti to Buffalo; Sharks grab Mark Cundari.

  13. Philly hires goalie coach Dillabaugh, formerly of Los Angeles

    Jul 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT

    Steve Mason AP

    Where he “contributed to the development of Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Martin Jones.”

  14. Rangers sign ex-Sabres, Jackets forward Adam

    Jul 3, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT

    Luke Adam Getty Images

    The 44th overall pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. M. Richards (2565)
  2. P. Kessel (2026)
  3. Z. Kassian (1990)
  4. B. Saad (1773)
  5. A. Sekera (1744)
  1. S. Voynov (1743)
  2. D. Hamilton (1664)
  3. S. Gagner (1601)
  4. R. O'Reilly (1590)
  5. B. Richards (1560)