Aug 28, 2014, 3:35 PM EDT
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.
Apr 1, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT
Pittsburgh lost to Philadelphia on Wednesday.
Apr 1, 2015, 10:50 PM EDT
Started off well for Pittsburgh, but got worse from there.
Apr 1, 2015, 10:12 PM EDT
Both desperately need wins to stay alive in playoff race.
Apr 1, 2015, 9:54 PM EDT
Apr 1, 2015, 9:23 PM EDT
It’s been a while.
Apr 1, 2015, 8:48 PM EDT
He’s having a “down year,” apparently.
Apr 1, 2015, 8:18 PM EDT
Red Wings forward reflects on Tuesday’s scary skate cut incident.
Apr 1, 2015, 7:49 PM EDT
Just 12 forwards, and five defensemen.
Apr 1, 2015, 7:39 PM EDT
“It was vicious, and it deserves to be penalized.”
Apr 1, 2015, 7:15 PM EDT
Kings defenseman also suffered a ruptured Achilles.
Apr 1, 2015, 6:38 PM EDT
Catch the game on NBCSN, or with NBCSports.com’s Live Extra.
Apr 1, 2015, 6:13 PM EDT
He’ll play on a line with Carl Hagelin and Kevin Hayes.
Apr 1, 2015, 5:26 PM EDT
Has been playing in Finland this season.
Apr 1, 2015, 4:48 PM EDT
Click for all the odds.
Apr 1, 2015, 4:24 PM EDT
Certainly better than they were in February.
Apr 1, 2015, 3:27 PM EDT
Did you know only six players in the entire NHL have more points than Hudler?
Apr 1, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Wouldn’t be great news for the Kings.
Apr 1, 2015, 2:27 PM EDT
“I think the timetable’s still at the 12-week mark.”
Apr 1, 2015, 2:27 PM EDT
News and notes from around the crease…
Apr 1, 2015, 2:13 PM EDT
After scoring 16 points in 15 games.
- Video: Flyers trounce slumping Penguins on Rivalry Night 11
- Video: Crosby scores goal No. 300 for his NHL career 5
- (Video) McKenzie: ‘Best guess is anywhere from 3-5 games’ for Byfuglien suspension 13
- Byfuglien to have phone hearing for Miller cross-check 44
- Patrick Kane is practicing today 30
- NHL on NBCSN: Flyers won’t fool with Penguins on Rivalry Night 35
- ‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller 66
- Video: Byfuglien gets away with ugly cross check, penalized late in Jets loss to Rangers 36
- Video: Lucic scores late winner, Bruins deal crushing blow to Panthers playoff hopes 11
- Video: Ovi becomes sixth player in history to record six 50-goal seasons 18
- ‘Could’ve broken his neck,’ says Vigneault of Byfuglien cross check on Miller (66)
- Minnesota leapfrogs Chicago in the Central Division (65)
- Coyotes ‘win’ against Sabres in OT (58)
- Sabres GM Tim Murray: ‘I think too much about’ McDavid (55)
- Report: Warrant issued for Deveaux’s arrest following Swedish league attack (49)