Consequences of Not Finishing the Job

Two weeks ago the Sabres looked to be in a comfortable spot in the race to the bottom of the NHL standings.  On Valentines Day, Buffalo had a six point lead on 29th place Edmonton and a 12 point lead on then 27th place Arizona.  Fast forward to present day and the Sabres now only hold a 3 point lead on 29th place Edmonton and a 4 point lead on 28th place Arizona.  All three teams have 20 games remaining entering Saturday.  Buffalo has come this far and needs to finish the job of finishing in last place.  Blowing the opportunity to guarantee a chance at McDavid or Eichel could have very harsh consequences.

Familiar Path

This isn’t unfamiliar territory for the Sabres.  In the 2012-13 lockout shortened season, the Sabres entered play on March 11th in 29th place, only one point ahead of Florida.  Both teams had 22 games remaining in the season.  The Sabres were staring the

(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)
(Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports)

opportunity of drafting an elite player right in the face.  However, over the final 22 games the Sabres finished 12-7-3 earning 27 points under new coach Ron Rolston.  Fans saw this a building block for the 2013-14 season.  The 29th place Colorado Avalanche would end up winning the lottery and draft 2014 rookie of the year and star forward Nathan MacKinnon.  The Sabres would end up drafting 8th and selecting Rasmus Ristolainen, who has turned out as a good player for Buffalo.  Even though Ristolainen has turned out to be a good prospect, we can all agree he still isn’t the caliber of MacKinnon.

As for the strong ending being a building block towards the next season, well not so much.  The Sabres started 4-15-1 and Rolston was fired on November 13th, 2013.  Colorado would go on to finish 3rd in the NHL with 112 points and a playoff berth last season.  This season the Avs have dropped back to earth, but still only sit six points out of a wild card spot this season.  It’s unlikely Colorado will make the playoffs this year, but they still have the superior talent of MacKinnon on their roster for years to come.

Finishing the Job

The Sabres seemed to be a lock for 30th a few weeks ago coming off 14 straight defeats and a large lead in the standings.  A recent stretch of 3-1-2 and points in 5 of their last six games has allowed Edmonton and Arizona to close the gap.  The recent streak as been led by players who likely won’t be part of the team in a few days or month.  Players like Chris Stewart, Torrey Mitchell, and

Michal Neuvirth have led the Sabres to this hot stretch.  Losing out on the opportunity of earning a lottery ticket to draft McDavid or Eichel, because of players that have no future with organization will be the ultimate kick in the gut.

(Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
(Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)

Another strong finish for pride could have bigger consequences than 2013.  Losing out on the guarantee or all together opportunity of picking either McDavid or Eichel will haunt the franchise for years.  The Sabres have come this far and losing out this chance will be the ultimate suffering for fans.  The two superstars at the top of the draft, are two players that will allow the Sabres to be perennial contenders like Pittsburgh and Chicago.  Gaining a player on your roster that can change the outcome of a game night in and night out on their own, is a rare opportunity.

Of course, the Sabres could still get a great player outside of the top two like Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, or Mitch Marner.  Those three will still not give you the same impact you’ll get from a generational talent.  For fans, not finishing the job will be absolutely heart breaking.  Most fans have fully committed to the plan and morale will be very low heading into next season with failing to finish last.  Of course this sounds like a terrible way to root for your team, but with only 20 games left until the big prize at the end, it’s all hands on deck, no turning back now.

8 thoughts on “Consequences of Not Finishing the Job”

  1. I really have no problem if the Sabres don’t finish dead last…they only have a 20% chance of getting McDavid anyway if they even do finish dead last. It is quite disheartening and frustrating to hear people and radio personalities cheer when they lose. Looking forward to the season being over (can’t believe i have to say that), but no matter where they finish they will be getting a POTENTIALLY great player. Even better if Edmonton picks a defensemen like they should.

  2. The sabres. Dammed if they do and dammed if they don’t. All I hear is whining about how the sabres are tanking the season so hard and then articles come around like “WTF are you guys doing, tank harder!”.

  3. Buffalo took a lot of heat from the experts earlier in the year as “tankers” while barely mentioning Edmonton. And now whaddya know, here comes old friend Darcy Regier’s Arizona team joining the oilers for the race to the bottom. I’m sure all those who so despised the “tanking” that Buffalo was supposedly embracing will be quick to congratulate them for doing the “right” thing – whatever that is while the oilers and coyotes share the spoils of their knowing how to play the tank game better than Buffalo.

  4. Unless you base your draft opinion on what some ex-player scouts are saying, the draft right now is a two horse race with McDavid and Marner heads and shoulders above the rest of the class. Eichel generational? Are you delusional. Not only did he look average in WJs, seeing him play in the watered down College league is also dissapointing, not to mention his off ice character which I’m sure leaves many hoping they never have to play with him. Hanifin and Strome will be good picks, but not franchise players like the two top talents in this draft. Mcdavid is Mcdavid, and Marner has taken a junior team whom lost a third of their veteran talent to the NHL this year not to mention another two that were given away at x-mas, and with Gretzky like stats have kept them near the elite in the OHL, and playing against 19 year olds many who are first and second round NHL drafted prospects and not never to be heard from again U.S. College players. Writers need to stop writing stories with info they read, and actually follow every aspect of the sport using their own IQ. Whatever teams select second through five and do not take Marner, their entire staff should be fired by ownership for have low hockey IQ and being lazy. Last week I met two Toronto scouts at an Erie game, asking them whom they were there to see, they boasted McDavid. ??? Why? Everyone already knows he’s the #1 pick, so why watch him. Too lazy to travel to Saginaw or Belleville to find the 15th pick, and too stupid to know who he would be anyways. There’s a reason why Detroit year after year finds the best players, and competes as do the London Knights. High hockey IQ management who do not rely on the opinions of dummies whom know very little about talent.

    • LOL I’ll take the opinion of nearly every scouting service in the world over an internet poster named Dirk and assume that Eichel will be the second pick. His off the ice character…now you are on to something there. An 18-and a half- year old drinking alcoholic beverages clearly means that he’s on the path towards a destructive and disappointing rest of his life

      • Wow, what a high hockey IQ you have. I would love to see your hockey credentials in any way. Feel free to post them as you see fit to embarrass yourself. Eichel will be the second pick, because dopes like you haven’t a clue. Eichel’s demeanour doesn’t mean he is on a destructive path, it show’s he is a player most wouldn’t want to be around because he come off like a douche.

        • Marner leads the OHL in points, which of course must be the hallmark of a future Hall of Famer….here are the names of other OHL point leaders over the past few years who are also tearing up the NHL – Jason Akeson, Nick Cousins, Michael Sgarbossa, Charles Sarault. You seem to be generalizing every college hockey player (average age of 20-21) as a nobody and every CHL/OHL player (average age 18) as a first rounder. Seems correct though

          • The numbers say McDavid Played 119 Games his first two OHL seasons amassing 53G, 112A, and 166 Points. He was given exceptional status because his birthday is so early in Jan., meaning had he been born a week earlier he would have been in the 96′ year OHL entry draft anyways. He also has the luxury of playing with most of his minor hockey mates from the OHL and GTHL whom Sherwood surrounded him with. The only time the Otters looked average was when McDavid was away at the WJ’s and Erie struggled.
            Marner whom is in his second year year of the OHL as of today has 120 games played, 56G, 122A, and 178 Points, and is five months younger than McDavid, not only that, he has put these numbers up with a team of patched together players, and he was the hottest when Domi was away for four weeks at the WJ’s . Not only that, Dale gave away two top veterans and London won something silly like 10 out of 11 during that time.
            So what I am saying, is that these aren’t “pie in the sky” observations, but actual facts and figures.
            I am not saying that Eichel, Strome, Hanifin or Crouse are bad players, what I am saying is that given the info and watching each one game in and game out, it is ludicrous that nobody sees Marner as the second pick. Somebody please come up with the info to prove me wrong, and don’t use the old excuse of size, those days are long gone and the DIno’s are dying out.

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