On March 31, the Buffalo Sabres finally ended their deplorable 18-game losing streak against the Philadelphia Flyers with a 6-1 win. Their previous win was over a month prior on Feb. 23, a 4-1 victory against the New Jersey Devils.
It was the NHL’s longest losing streak in the shootout era (post-2005), tying the previous record set by the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2004. Even more embarrassing is that just six seasons prior, the Sabres had another lengthy losing streak, lasting 14 games and earning them a coveted spot in the losing records.
So just how bad is the beloved Western New York franchise?
As of April 4, the Sabres are last in the league, with a record of 8-23-6 for 22 points. Their performance has been perpetuated from the lackluster play from their big name players, such as forward Jeff Skinner.
Signed in 2018 to a massive eight-year $72 million contract, he has a measly three goals and two assists in 34 games and is stuck on the Sabres’ fourth line. Two seasons ago, Skinner scored an impressive 40 goals and 23 assists in 82 games. Contrast that performance to today, where he’s been a healthy scratch in numerous games.
Compare Skinner’s contract to Flyers captain Claude Giroux’s. The Flyer is also signed for eight years yet earns $66.2 million. He has 11 goals and 18 assists in the same number of games as Skinner’s paltry five points.
Former first overall pick Taylor Hall joined the Sabres on a one-year deal after expressing the desire to join a winning team…ironic, isn’t it? Although he’s third on the team in scoring and has 15 assists to his name, he’s scored just two goals. Similarly can be said about captain Jack Eichel, who has 14 assists but two goals. For players of their caliber, both of whom were chosen high in their respective draft classes, the performance is disappointing.
Granted, the team does have some solid forwards such as Sam Reinhart and Victor Olofsson, who are numbers one and two in scoring, respectively. Quality defensemen are sparse; the pair of Rasmus’s (Rasmus Dahlin and Rasmus Ristolainen) along with Brandon Montour are the only three that really matter, trying in vain to stop the onslaught of shots they face every night.
The Sabres have been consistently poor for 10 years. Since their last playoff appearance in 2011, they’ve been through a whole decade of mediocrity. Things were even trending upwards in 2015-16. Eichel was drafted, players like Ryan O’Reilly and Evander Kane were brought in to bolster a struggling offense and the team finished the season with a respectable 35-36-11 record.
At this point, I’m not even sure if a dramatic rebuild could save this team. They’ve been on a slow and steady decline since their Eastern Conference Finals appearance in 2007 no matter who they trade, what coach they hire and what general manager steps in to steer the sinking ship.
I remember the buzz surrounding the team in 2015. There was legitimate hope. The city was hyped. Team media reflected the change in mood from miserable to courageous. That team was ready to take on the world and here we are, years later, and they fell flat on their faces.
Will the Sabres ever be truly fixable?