Yes, we just lost 4-2 to Toronto, but I'm not speaking on emotion.
I'm speaking as someone who has watched this team closely all year long, their trials, triumphs, and tribulations.
This team is close of being a playoff team, but it's just not there at the moment. It's one or two players short.
Look at the Sabres' recent losses to Atlanta and the Rangers, who are themselves flirting with a playoff spot. Further back, we've had trouble with Tampa and Florida, who are near the basement. Not to mention our struggles against the Leafs, although that can almost be put aside; it's a rivalry, it's always a tight game.
That means we get to games against the top tier teams, like Carolina, like Ottawa, like New Jersey, and we say to ourselves - not one of these teams again (unfortunately, we'll be saying a lot of that next month). As a fan, we almost want to chalk up a loss right there and then, before the drop of the puck, or we find ourselves just hoping to sneak away with a point!
Not good enough.
We've had a lot of close games. We've had games we've outshot teams by 20 or more, and lost. Good teams don't lose close games. Good teams find ways to close those games out. We did it last year. Look at a team like Ottawa who can do it this year. We're not anywhere near Ottawa this year, which is disheartening after the great games we saw between us the last two years.
But mark my words, this team is CLOSE. Yes, close is not good enough, but close means one or two moves away from becoming a legitimate playoff contender. Darcy Regier is a man who waits, and waits, and waits..until he finds the best deal he can. He doesn't panic. He waits til the last possible second before making a deal. And often times he'll make a good one. He's on the clock now. In the next 3-4 weeks, he'll have to turn at least one major deal, or a few smaller ones, to get a fire lighted under this team.
They're good, they just need that extra push. A few right moves, and they're right back in contention.
If this team stays as is, they're going nowhere. It's sad, but true. You look at the teams ahead of us, particularly those in the Top 8, and you find yourself saying there's no way we can catch any of them. Not to mention Atlanta, the Rangers, and a surging Washington ahead of us now too.
It was close all year, but the separation of the contenders and pretenders is beginning, and we're falling further and further behind. The top 6 in the East are all but solidified, and I honestly don't see them changing much except their positions within that top 6. You have to ask yourself, who will make it out of Boston, the Islanders, Atlanta, the Rangers, Washington, Buffalo, Florida and Toronto? Well, for one, the odds aren't in the Sabres favor, since only two will make it of that bunch. But secondly, the Sabres just don't make the cut in that bunch as they are presently composed.
One or two moves away. Not time to give up on this organization just yet; it could happen.