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.
Dec 21, 2014, 1:18 AM EST
Christopher Tanev scored the overtime winner on his birthday.
Dec 21, 2014, 12:33 AM EST
Vancouver reported its holding him out of the rest of the game for precautionary reasons.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:51 PM EST
Minnesota has won five of its last 13 games.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:20 PM EST
They had pulled their goaltender on a delayed penalty.
Dec 20, 2014, 11:05 PM EST
Stamkos hopes this loss will serve as a wake up call.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:43 PM EST
Ray Emery certainly got a lot of offensive help with Steve Mason out.
Dec 20, 2014, 10:17 PM EST
Montreal beat Ottawa 4-1.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:55 PM EST
It’s the third time this month New Jersey has been goalless.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:35 PM EST
Calvin Pickard had another great game.
Dec 20, 2014, 9:08 PM EST
It’s been a heated game between Pittsburgh and Florida.
Dec 20, 2014, 8:06 PM EST
It set a franchise record for both teams.
Dec 20, 2014, 7:20 PM EST
Carlyle’s been unhappy with his “very erratic” play.
Dec 20, 2014, 7:00 PM EST
They’ve combined for 13 points in the Kings’ last two games.
Dec 20, 2014, 6:11 PM EST
He might get that opportunity this weekend.
Dec 20, 2014, 5:24 PM EST
He might shatter some career-highs this season.
Dec 20, 2014, 5:09 PM EST
He’s shooting for Dec. 27 against Boston.
Dec 20, 2014, 4:24 PM EST
Larsson went to the AHL on a conditioning assignment.
Dec 20, 2014, 3:27 PM EST
Saturday’s slew of starting goalies.
Dec 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EST
Tampa Bay’s top goalie faced shots this morning.
Dec 20, 2014, 1:22 PM EST
Good luck trying to forecast their lines for Saturday.
- Giroux line takes Leafs ‘to school’ in Flyers’ 7-4 victory 3
- Wolverine Pacioretty gets two assists just two days after being hospitalized 5
- Ovechkin scores beauty as Caps shutout Devils 3
- Seriously? Stress fracture sidelines Columbus’ Jenner for 1-2 months 6
- Julien chides Bruins’ offense for too many cute plays 39
- Sens roll over Ducks, who ‘weren’t ready’ 11
- Flyers’ Mason tweaked back, will miss weekend games 10
- Gordie Howe makes ‘amazing’ recovery following stem cell treatment in Mexico 15
- Video: Penguins’ spoof of ‘Christmas Vacation’ is pretty good 18
- Mason hurt, helped off ice at end of Flyers practice 8