Buffalo Sabres: 4 Early Signs That They Will Not Be a Playoff Team in 2013
The Buffalo Sabres began this shortened season with a lot of promise. Yet, after only 10 games in, that promise has again become disappointment. So what are the biggest reasons this team already seems destined to miss the playoffs for a second consecutive year?
Simply put, their defense has been terrible so far and they only have one line scoring. Combine that with the continued struggles of their supposed franchise goalie, and that's the blueprint to a 3-6-1 start.
But more than anything, this team is begging for change.
Why isn't Lindy Ruff on the hot seat already? And is Darcy Regier going to, as he always does, idly sit by and watch this team plummet down the standings before he even considers making a move?
Let's take a look at the four biggest reasons the Sabres look like they're headed for a last-place finish, and what they need to do to change their fortunes.
1. Their Overall Team Defense Has Been Atrocious
One thing you can say about Ruff's Sabres over the years is that they're usually a defensively-sound team. However, this season they have been anything but. The entire unit has been guilty of too many giveaways and poor positional play (especially on bodies in front of the net).
These defensive woes couldn't have come at a worse time either. The lack of a balanced scoring attack coupled with Ryan Miller's mediocre start has Buffalo struggling in the three main facets of the game.
Christian Ehrhoff is the only Sabres defenseman who's looked solid throughout much of their first 10 contests. He's still missing the net too much on the power play, but he's chipped in five assists and is a plus-two so far.
The same can not be said for Tyler Myers, Jordan Leopold or Andrej Sekera.
Their performances had better improve if Buffalo wants to even sniff a chance of making the postseason.
2. Tyler Myers Continues to Regress
When Tyler Myers broke in as a rookie in 2009-10, Sabres fans thought they had the makings of a star on their hands.
The physical play and the intimidation factor would evolve over time, but every indication was that Buffalo had a talented offensive-defenseman, who just also happened to be 6'8". This kid's skating and stick-handling were both beyond where you'd expect most young defenseman his age to be at.
Yet, over the last three years, Myers has failed to put himself in the upper echelon of blueliners in the NHL. If anything, he's continued to take steps backwards.
Never has that been more evident than in the beginning of this season.
The 23-year-old seems indecisive and nervous handling the puck. You also can't help but want so much more out of him in the hitting department, as he still fails to play with a mean-streak on a consistent basis.
We talked about Myers being the second most crucial player to the Sabres' potential in 2013 a few weeks back. Their poor record out of the gate is a direct reflection of how little he's contributed so far.
3. Ryan Miller Isn't Stealing Any Wins so Far
With a 3-4-1 record, a 3.11 GAA and .906 save percentage, Ryan Miller was also hoping for a better start to this jam-packed schedule.
While he is by no means to blame for Buffalo only winning one of their last eight games, he has allowed four goals in four straight games. That's not going to get it done.
Other than standing on his head in the third period in Boston last week, No. 30 has been average at best.
The frustration with Miller is that it's always the same issues with him. He still continues to go down too early which makes him very beatable high, and it seems like he lets in one bad goal a game no matter what.
Not to mention he maintains that horrible habit of coming out of his net way too far, often getting caught on the side of the goal while the other team has a tap in.
The veteran goalkeeper, much like Tyler Myers, is integral to the success of this team. Without him playing at a Vezina-worthy level, Buffalo's playoff chances are slim-to-none.
4. The Status Quo Remains
NHL teams nowadays change coaches like most people change socks. Except, of course, for the Buffalo Sabres.
If fans aren't convinced at this point how desperately this team needs a coaching change, then they're not paying attention.
There are numerous guys on this roster (Myers, Drew Stafford and Tyler Ennis) that aren't even close to living up to their potential. Ultimately, it's a coach's job to get the most out of every one of his players, and Ruff is failing miserably at that.
However, don't expect GM Darcy Regier to fire his "partner" for the last 15 years. The two of them always appeared to be a package deal, so Regier's contract extension would lead one to believe that Ruff's job is safe.
As the Sabres continue to dig their hole deeper, one can only hope that Regier shakes this squad up. So if he refuses to replace the coach, he needs to make a significant trade before it's too late.
History says don't count on it. But this team's effort (or lack thereof) and their results are crying out for a change just for the sake of making one.
This team's chance at having a successful season depends on it. Otherwise, it'll just be more of the same in Western New York.