The knock on the current Sabres from the fanbase has been happening due to the team's record. In prior posts in the Sabres thread, it was brought up how much better they're doing than last season, just to show a year-over-year improvement. I decided to break down the team's record in comparison to not only last year, but also the last time the Sabres were "good
The raw numbers will be at the end of this post
Last time the Sabres were respectable (11/12 season), they missed the playoffs by 3 points - 89 point season, Ottawa and Washington tied just ahead of Buffalo with 92 points each
Currently the Sabres are "already" 20 points better than last season and on pace for an improvement of 34 points (though many fans think the team will do even better due than maintaining the pace of the season since the March schedule is full of other poor teams). The argument detractors make, and it's valid, is that comparing ANY team to a team that was "built to lose" is not a good coparison. That's what made me look back even further to find some data on a near-miss team that was respectable in the league, despite us fans seeing it as yet another "run to 9th place" team
Buffalo is currently 7 points behind the 2011/12 team - 63 points now, 70 points (in one more game played than this season) on this date in 2012. Not only are those details close, but the scoring data is quite similar as well. Buffalo had 167 goals scored 4 years ago, compared to 160 right now. In 2012 the team had allowed 191 goals, and that was with such a well-known and (fairly) respected goaltender in Ryan Miller. The 2015/16 Sabres? They have allowed 10 fewer goals behind the likes of Chad Johnson, Linus Ullmark, and a goaltender coming off of a very short season after a concussion plus an injury in game 1 of this season in Robin Lehner.
The differences in the roster are pretty drastic. At the time, the Sabres had production from veterans such as Pominville, Vanek, Stafford, Roy and Ehrhoff. This season the top 5 players are O'Reilly, Eichel, Ristolainen, Reinhart and Kane. Ristolainen's 37 points so far this season puts him 5 points higher than Ehrhoff had in 66 games as a Sabre that season, O'Reilly was on pace to basically match Pominville (the 11/12 leading scorer for the team), and Eichel's 20 goals so far would land him tied for 3rd overall on the 11/12 team over their complete season (Pominville - 30, Vanek - 26, Stafford - 20).
That's a lot of words to basically say this - the Buffalo Sabres aren't bad. 4 years ago on this date, they were only 2 points behind the last playoff spot in the East with virtually identical statistics (-21 goal differential now, -24 in the 11/12 season), yet the team finds itself much further out of the coveted playoff positions.
The team has already come a long way from the past 2 tank season, where they had goal differentials on this date of -59 and -98 (holy hell!!). It's not a huge accomplishment to be better than those teams, but the comparison to a better team from 11/12 hopefully helps show some signs that they're not as bad as the record shows.
2015/16 Sabres on March 8
27-31-9 25 ROW 63 Points 160 GF 181 GA
2014/15 Sabres on March 8
19-42-5 12 ROW 43 Points 126 GF 224 GA
2013/14 Sabres on March 8
19-36-8 13 ROW 46 Points 127 GF 186 GA
2011/12 Sabres on March 8
31-29-8 25 ROW 70 Points 167 GF 191 GA