Posted 11:52 AM ET | Comments 8
As I sit here in my Taro Tsujimoto jersey (hats off to those of you who get the reference), my thoughts have been stuck on the Sabres and when they will pull themselves out of this slump they are in and get back into playoff contention. I’ve been looking at the conference standings all morning, and slowly another question has been trickling into my mind...
CAN they pull themselves out of this slump?
First, I look at the division standings. Buffalo is tied for rock bottom with the Canadians. They are 8 points behind the Leafs for 3rd place, and 18 points away from the Bruins on top of the devision. So, let’s just focus on catching the Leafs. The only reason that Buffalo is ahead of the Habs right now is that they have won more games.
Let’s pan the camera back a little bit and look at the division. Buffalo is tied for 11th (again, with Montreal). As I mentioned last paragraph, let’s focus on catching the Leafs in third place with 51 points... Good goal right?
NOT GOOD ENOUGH.
This would place Buffalo in 9th place, sitting on the bubble, still behind the Florida Panthers, who sit in the final playoff spot. Buffalo is 9 points, at least 5 games, out of the final playoff spot available in the Eastern Conference. 35 games left in the season. Yes, that’s plenty of time... However, I don’t see Buffalo winning again until after the All-Star break (and yes, I hope they prove me wrong, starting tonight in St. Louis).
Enough of us craning our heads looking up, let’s look at the teams who are behind Buffalo in the East.
Montreal is tied with us at 43 points. The Islanders, Tampa Bay, and Carolina are all behind us with 42 points. Buffalo is within 1 point of sitting in dead last of the Eastern Conference. By the end of tonight, yes TONIGHT, the Buffalo Sabres could be tied for last place in the Eastern Conference. The only reason that Buffalo won’t be the only team in last is because the Islanders are playing the Hurricanes tonight. However, if Carolina beats the Isle’s in overtime, the Isles have the tiebreaker with having 2 games in hand over Buffalo.
It is now more realistic that Buffalo will be in last place by the All-Star break by themselves, than that they will start to catch up with their opponents who are ahead of them in the standings. Marty Broduer is next up for the Sabres on Tuesday, before a week off. He’s traditionally owned Buffalo. I don’t see the Sabres beating Jersey, in Jersey.
Despite this depressing news, the season is still not lost. Buffalo could go on a tear in February and March, but why would someone think that they could at the moment? No one believes on this team that they can win. Ruff is unable to motivate his players to play better, smarter hockey. Look at Buffalo’s goal celebrations (albeit few and far between). When Pominville scored his 2 goals on Wednesday against the Hawks, no sticks were raised in the air, and barely any celebration was made. It looked almost as though the Sabres were congratulating Pominville, but the mind set was “GREAT, we aren’t going to get shut out tonight!” Same thing after Stafford’s goal against Winnipeg, but that celebration was more along the lines of “Wow, we’re tied!”. Buffalo should be pumped when they score. Goals are a momentum changer in games. But they don’t have that fire, that drive to keep going after goals, or that believe that they can win. They accept defeat before they even get on the ice.
This Buffalo team has lost all passion and belief that they can win hockey games... It’s is lost, and gone for the time being.
I’m concerned that the Buffalo management is going to come out and say that Buffalo is going to “reassess” or “begin to rebuild for next season”. As I recall Darcy Regier came out and said this after losing Danny Briere and Chris Drury, and alluded to getting the team competitive in a couple years. One of the reporters at his press conference in 2007 asked something along the lines of “Don’t you think Buffalo fans have waited long enough for a Cup?” The intent was to remind management that the fans of Buffalo are sick and tired of waiting for a championship team to come to Buffalo.
Terry Pegula stated that Buffalo’s reason for existence was to win the Stanley Cup when he bought the team, implying that the goal is the win the Cup, NOW. Not in 5-6 years, now. This season, or next season was implied. That was the reason for the aggressive off-season approach to signing new players. So why now is Buffalo slacking off and not trying to shake things up and get this team playing like serious contenders.
Buffalo fans were excited when Pegula took over because he made it clear that just making the playoffs wasn’t good enough anymore. I wonder what last place in the East is to Pegula? Right now, I’d be worried that once again, Buffalo is going to start trying to rebuild, and that a Stanley Cup for Buffalo is going to get pushed further into the distance.
I say that 41 years is too long to wait for Buffalo to win a Cup. Right now it’s looking like it’s going to at least be 42 years unless Buffalo does something now to shake things up, and get the players playing with a new found passion.
It all comes back to tonight... Buffalo may be tied for last place in the East by tomorrow. What else has to happen, for management to make some changes?
Dire straits indeed.