Tag Archives: Sabres Fans

Sabres’ Early Struggles Lead to Questions

Bad habits die hard, as the Buffalo Sabres have had another bad start to the season. And because of those slow starts, the team gets in a hole at the beginning of the season so deep that they can never battle back and salvage the campaign.

The Sabres are 0-2-1 through the first three games, and the past two games against the New York Islanders and the New Jersey Devils have seen them give up a total of 12 goals. One of the biggest problems is that Buffalo is giving up a great deal of odd-man rushes. In the New Jersey game, odd-man rushes cost the Sabres four goals against.

But it is not just odd-man rushes. A lot of the goals against are because of the sloppy play in the Sabres’ own end and turnovers in key areas. Phil Housley, the Sabres’ new head coach, says the team needs to work harder and the results will come.

As if the defense is the only group struggling, Buffalo’s offense has also had its short comings. The Sabres have only had one line producing goals this season. Evander Kane has four goals, Jason Pominville has two goals and Jack Eichel has one goal. Big name players like Ryan O’Reilly, Sam Reinhart and Kyle Okposo have been snack bitten thus far. O’Reilly has been basically invisible through three games and Sam Reinhart has looked lost playing his original center position.

Last year, the Sabres finished with the best power play in the league. Well, that was last year folks, as this year the Sabres are currently 16th with a lousy 15 percent success-rate early in the season. That’s not the worst part though, as the Sabres have given up four shorthanded goals already this season. That is the same amount the club gave up all of last season.

The team doesn’t have many excuses for the bad play. They don’t have many injuries, with just Zach Bogosian being the only serious loss to the team. So why is this team struggling so badly already? Sabres fans are looking for answers and if the squad continues to play the way it is, the loyal fan base will look for change.

Most of the Sabres’ struggles are because this team is weak-minded. They don’t handle adversity well at all. For example, when the Sabres were down 2-0 against the Devils, Kane found a goal to cut the lead to one. But, that positive momentum didn’t last a two full minutes as the Devils responded with goal of their own, and then found a fourth minutes later. Housley put it best when he stated the team doesn’t have push back when the game needs it or they face adversity. With a young team, learning to win is a hard thing to teach, but they need to show more fight if they want to be in more games.

The next issue has a lot to do with the goaltending, but Robin Lehner is not entirely to blame for this struggle. The fan base is used to having star and franchise goals, as the Sabres were lucky to have two elite goalies play for their organization in Dominik Hasek and Ryan Miller. Lehner is not one of those goalies: he is a tweener until the next franchise goalie comes along.

Lehner has been left out to dry for the two games he’s played this season. This is a goalie who posted a .920 save percentage last year and bailed the team out of a lot of games. His main weakness is the shootout, as he has yet to find a win in the shootout in his three seasons as a Sabre. He struggles to even make one save, but – again -it’s not just his fault as his team also forgets to score in shootout.

It’s easy to blame the coach and his system. Housley wants to play a five-man attack and wants the team to play with speed. This is part of the issue as the team doesn’t have a lot of speed with the exceptions of Eichel and Kane. Learning the new five-man attack is taking some time and, without the correct cycle, is leading to those odd-man rushes going the other way.

It looks bad right now, but I would like to remind people that last year the Nashville Predators struggled to start the season. They started their first 10 games 3-5-2 under Housley’s defensive system. That being said, things need to change for the Sabres because Jason Botterill has a plan and I’m sure could find a way to make moves to better this team.

The league is getting younger and the youth movement is on. It’s only a matter of time before the youngsters of Alex Nylander, Brendan Ghule and Linus Ullmark get a spot in the NHL. Players like Matt Moulson and Josh Gorges are going to move on and the youth will get a chance to wake this team up.

The Sabres are heading west as they have San Jose tonight at 10:30 p.m. EDT. They have had luck against this team over past few years, and they need to get on the right path on this trip with other games against LA, Anaheim and Vegas. If they could take 2 or 3 out of 4 games, the fans will calm down and they could start getting out of the big hole.

Colby’s Corner: No, McDavid Can’t Win the Calder

Hockey Hall of Fame
Hockey Hall of Fame

I hope everyone is ready for a rant, as I have been reading speculation around the Calder Memorial Trophy this year. The Calder is given to the rookie of the year, and with the high level of talent from the rookies this year, the race will go to the end of the season. If I were to rank the top five rookies today, they would go as followed.

  1. CHI Artemi Panarin G 22 A 35 GP 60
  2. DET Dylan Larkin G 19 A 20 GP 57
  3. PHL Shayne Gotisbehere G 12 A 22 GP 40
  4. AIZ Max Domi  G 17 A 24 GP 58
  5. BUF Jack Eichel G 17 A 24  GP 60

DNQ: Connor McDavid G 10 A 17 GP 23

Artemi Panarin deserves to win the Calder this year; this man has 57 points thus far this season. At his current points-per-game pace, it has him around the high 70’s this season for a rookie. Yes, I understand that he is on the best team out of all of the rookies and he plays with Patrick Kane, but you can’t argue with the point total. The second closest players in points are Max Domi and Jack Eichel with 41.

Dylan Larkin is second because of the impact he has for Detroit. This team has rallied around him in hopes of keeping the playoff streak alive. Another reason is because of his phenomenal plus-minus stat: plus 21 on the season. This is incredible and shows how dynamic his game is, both offensively and defensively.

Another name that might surprise a few (and shouldn’t) would be Shayne Gotisbehere of the Flyers. He makes my list at number three because of his 16-game point streak and his 34 points by a defenseman in just 40 games played. He has been a great change for Philly and I think the longer his game streak continues, I could see him jumping past Larkin at the number two spot.

Max Domi and Jack Eichel round out my final five as they are both tied on points. I placed Domi above Eichel because he has the same amount of points in two fewer games. Sorry Sabres fans, don’t hurt me.

Now for the rant section. Connor McDavid did not qualify in my book and it is not his fault at all. When he broke his collarbone and missed all those games, I wrote him off as all of you should have, but most didn’t. I understand the kid was the first overall pick and he is very talented, but you can’t give a rookie of the year to a player who can only play 45 games on the season. He has great numbers with 27 points in 23 games played, but the Oilers only have 22 games left.

Unless McDavid can put up 60 points in 45 games, I don’t see how you can reward a player who didn’t play most of the schedule. Players like Eichel and Panarin who haven’t missed a game deserve to be rewarded for that. Injuries are part of the game and the challenge is staying healthy all year long. If McDavid had only missed 10-15 games I would allow him in the race, but he missed 30 plus games and that doesn’t deserve the Calder. Sorry, kid.

I think my ranking from 2-5 will change, but I don’t see Panarin losing the top spot, as he has a 16 point lead over everyone. If you disagree and want to tell me why, shoot me a message or comment.