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.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:00 PM EDT
Scored 13 goals in 54 games last season.
Jul 3, 2015, 10:00 PM EDT
He was sentenced in September, 2013.
Jul 3, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
Spent the last three seasons in the KHL.
Jul 3, 2015, 7:44 PM EDT
Buffalo also signed Cal O’Reilly, who played last season with the AHL Utica Comets.
Jul 3, 2015, 6:43 PM EDT
He signed a six-year, $36 million deal with Columbus.
Jul 3, 2015, 5:44 PM EDT
“Joel is a quality veteran player who can score but also plays an extremely hard-nosed brand of hockey.”
Jul 3, 2015, 5:00 PM EDT
Could make things interesting next season.
Jul 3, 2015, 4:00 PM EDT
Brings a wealth of success, experience at AHL, collegiate levels.
Jul 3, 2015, 3:12 PM EDT
$52.5 million extension.
Jul 3, 2015, 2:50 PM EDT
“This long-term commitment that assures he will be an important part of our team for years to come.”
Jul 3, 2015, 2:37 PM EDT
“They gotta come in and knock somebody out of the box.”
Jul 3, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
A one-year, two-way deal for the ex-Islander.
Jul 3, 2015, 1:00 PM EDT
Charlie Huddy, Pascal Vincent and Wade Flaherty all inked three-year extensions.
Jul 3, 2015, 12:46 PM EDT
Expected to battle Brian Elliott for the starting role in St. Louis.
Jul 3, 2015, 12:23 PM EDT
“It’s an exciting time to be a part of this organization.”
Jul 3, 2015, 11:44 AM EDT
Jul 3, 2015, 11:32 AM EDT
Bobby Sanguinetti to Buffalo; Sharks grab Mark Cundari.
Jul 3, 2015, 11:30 AM EDT
Where he “contributed to the development of Jonathan Quick, Jonathan Bernier and Martin Jones.”
Jul 3, 2015, 11:19 AM EDT
How patiently will he wait?
Jul 3, 2015, 10:46 AM EDT
The 44th overall pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
- Brandon Saad brings championship experience to Blue Jackets 12
- Sharks sign Joel Ward to three-year deal 16
- Sabres lock up O’Reilly through 2022-23 56
- Locked in: Columbus signs Saad to six-year, $36M deal 25
- Oilers sign McDavid to entry-level contract 24
- ‘Hawks would like to re-sign Oduya, but still working through ‘financial hurdles’ 17
- Trade: Caps acquire Oshie from Blues for Brouwer, Copley and draft pick 73
- Voynov takes plea, gets 90 days in jail plus probation 60
- Curtains on Broadway: Martin St. Louis calls it a career 36
- Discuss: Where’s the best fit for Alex Semin? 23
- Blockbuster: Kessel traded to the Penguins (131)
- Trade: Flyers send Rinaldo to Bruins for 2017 third-rounder (105)
- Trade: Jackets land Saad; Anisimov and Dano headed to Chicago (93)
- Bypassing a buyout? Kings terminate Richards’ contract for ‘material breach’ (90)
- Trade: Caps acquire Oshie from Blues for Brouwer, Copley and draft pick (73)