By Rob Santander
Head Coach: Phil Housley
Sabres 2017-2018 record- 25-45-12 (62 points), Finished 8th in NHL Atlantic Division
Sabres 2019-2020 Summary:
The eighteenth of February was the eight year anniversary of Billionaire Terry Pegula’s purchase of the Buffalo Sabres, the price tag – a cool $189 million dollars. This inspired me to write a column to give the loyal, starved fan base an update on the team’s quest for the Stanley Cup.
Fast forward to the 2017 off-season when the Franchise named two of its former players, Phil Housley and Jason Botterill, Head coach and General Manager, respectively. Other notable additions from this offseason include the acquisitions of veterans Jason Pominville and Marco Scandella.
Unfortunately these additions were not enough to propel the Sabres to consistent winning, but there was some silver lining. In the 2017-2018 campaign, fans witnessed tremendous growth from their franchise cornerstone Jack Eichel, who agreed to a lucrative 8 year- 80 million dollar extension, and soon after was dubbed team captain.
Despite loftier expectations, Buffalo finished at the bottom of the NHL standings for the third time in five seasons. While disappointing at first, this lack of success again blossomed into something that Sabres fans everywhere can be proud of.
The 2018-2019 campaign started off with a much more competitive atmosphere than previous years. The Sabres’ good fortunes continued into the 2018-2019 draft lottery.
Entering the 2018-2019 draft lottery, the Sabres only had an 18.5% chance at landing the top draft pick. Despite the odds, the ping-pong balls bounced in the Sabres’ favor for only the third time in franchise history and first time since 1987. With the pick the team drafted 18 year old Swedish sensation Rasmus Dahlin.
Through 69 games played, the rookie has tallied 8 goals, 29 assists and 37 points. Granted those numbers don’t necessarily jump off the stat sheet, but considering he’s not even old enough to legally purchase a beer, scouts and executives around the league acknowledge that Buffalo has found their franchise defense-man for the next 15 seasons.
The influx of young elite talent coupled with the acquisition of star LW Brian Skinner jettisoned the Sabres to first place atop the league standings to open the season. In their first 22 games, the team went 16-6, highlighted by a 10 game winning streak. Naturally the club’s early success commanded league wide attention and had the city of Buffalo buzzing with energy and optimism.
Despite the early season success, Buffalo came crashing down to earth, playing a disappointing 12-24 record in the 36 games following the 16-6 start. This streak of poor quality hockey has caused the Sabres to fade from the Eastern conference playoff race. The front office would be wise to view these final 13 games as an evaluation period for next season. Every player on the roster is movable, with the exception of young studs Jack Eichel, Rasmus Dahlin, Casey Middlestadt and goaltender Carter Hutton. So Jason Botteril, whether you’re reading this or not: you must leave no stone unturned in order to meet Mr. Pegula’s goal he set back in 2011 – that is to make The Buffalo Sabre’s Stanley Cup Champions. Stanley Cup Champions… that has a nice ring to it.