Life hasn't been easy for the Buffalo Sabres and their fans over the past few years, especially during the 2013-14 season. The team's luck was so bad that Buffalo couldn't even win the NHL draft lottery despite having the league's worst record.
The Sabres were unable to draft a potential franchise defender in Aaron Ekblad—someone who they desperately needed—although settling for Sam Reinhart wasn't the worst thing in the world.
To make matters even worse, the NHL went ahead and changed how the draft lottery system will work for the 2015 Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel draft, so even if the Sabres are bowling shoe ugly again, they won't be guaranteed a top prospect.
Based on the summer moves made by general manager Tim Murray, it appears the Sabres are trying to put on a facade that they won't play with dishonor to draft Connor. Only time will tell, but it could be another long year for the Sabres and their fans, especially if they are unable to recoup their losses with a priority draft pick.
What We Learned in 2013-14
We learned last season that the Sabres fully embraced the notion that they needed to rebuild, and their on-ice play reflected their goal of acquiring young future franchise talents via the draft.
Over the past few seasons the team has made some high-profile trades to acquire quality draft picks and prospects, but the final dominoes fell last season.
The first flag went up when Thomas Vanek was dealt for Matt Moulson and a first-round draft pick, among other things, only weeks into the new season.
Vanek was set to become an unrestricted free agent, but trading him so early clearly showed that the Sabres were ready to start tanking.
The Sabres will reap the benefits of the first-round pick acquired for the 2015 draft if the New York Islanders are not a competitive team, but it was pretty sad to see Buffalo deal its top scorer so early into the season.
The team also dealt its franchise player Ryan Miller and with that the team's biggest chance at being competitive. As a whole the 2013-14 season was a mess, and here's some alarming statistics courtesy of Joe Yerdon from NHL.com.
Outlook for 2014
With all the moves made by Buffalo over the past few months, the team is in for a long season. A combination of Jhonas Enroth, Michal Neuvirth and Matt Hackett will occupy the crease in 2014-15, and that means the Sabres will lose a lot of games.
Neither goaltender has numbers remotely as good as Miller's were, and that will only help the team in its endeavor toward earning a lottery pick.
|Career Goaltending Numbers|
In addition, Sabres' blue line is nothing to write home about outside of Andrej Meszaros and Josh Gorges, and that won't help the Sabres' goaltending contingent.
Things get worse up front, as the team appears to be crossing fingers that a top six of Tyler Ennis, Brian Gionta, Cody Hodgson, Moulson and Chris Stewart will get the job done. This is another scenario that is less than ideal for Buffalo, but again we know what the end goal is.
Ultimately this is going to be a rough season for the Sabres. At some point there may be a time in which Ted Nolan tries to let the youngsters have their day, and that could be exciting for fans.
Zemgus Girgensons, Mikhail Grigorenko, Rasmus Ristolainen and others all have the potential to be future stars for the Sabres, but that day is not tomorrow, next week or next month.
Look for the Sabres to finish in the bottom section of the Eastern Conference, somewhere in the No. 13 to No. 15 position. It will all be worth it if McDavid and/or Eichel make their way to downtown Buffalo, but only time will tell.