Welcome to the homestretch: Now what?

462497766_slideThursday’s Sabres/Oilers matchup might have been the most anticipated of the back half of the Buffalo Sabres’ season.

The hyperbole was in overdrive as 30th place Buffalo took on 29th place Edmonton, with just two points separating the two and a Sabres win enough to push them past the Oilers on a tiebreaker for the moment. It went about as well as you’d expect for a team riding a 12-game losing streak, with Edmonton claiming a 3-2 win, pushing said streak to 13.

Then the team traveled to Vancouver, and the result was much of the same, as two goals by Chris Stewart were hardly enough to match the Canucks in a 5-2 loss.


The wheels came off of this season a long time ago, but looking ahead, there isn’t much reason to think this is going to end anytime soon. Vancouver out-Corsi’d the Sabres 70-29, one night after the 29th place Oilers racked up a 74-37 tally against the struggling Sabres. Struggling might not be a strong enough term.

This roster isn’t strong, but they’re not even playing the type of game that gives them a chance to win. The unsustainable (called it, by the way) streak through November-December was a combination of puck luck and strong goaltending. If the goaltender of the night is not standing on his head, this team’s got no shot in any given game.

They’ve got no confidence, which is fitting since their coach is known as a motivator. Their scorers aren’t scoring, with guys like Matt Moulson in slumps that date back to mid-December. Cody Hodgson can’t even stay in the lineup, much less earn a position on a scoring line or powerplay unit.

462544318_slideRight now, the team is in for a month of limbo. The NHL Trade Deadline is just over four weeks away. Any of the players who are headed out the door, whether it’s the pending unrestricted free agents like Drew Stafford or the resurgent Chris Stewart, or if it’s a player like Hodgson or Tyler Myers that has years left on their contract, it’s not happening yet.

Soon, but not yet.

For the state of the team, it’s quite a proposition to look at the next few weeks, with a 14-game skid in full swing and no reason to change things. The Sabres may close this week with a historic, league record losing streak in full motion. But what are you going to do? Fire Ted Nolan now? Make a trade to shake things up?

It’s an awkward spot considering things are pretty much exactly where you want them to be.

The Sabres are finally getting themselves a buffer between them and the suddenly competent Edmonton Oilers. That four point gap on the pack is the best it has been all season for Buffalo. They want to finish last. Most fans want it too. Any stop-gap move to shake up the team now might be enough to close it. Should Sabres general Tim Murray be addressing this immediately? I don’t think so, Tim.

So in the meantime, it’s a matter of letting things happen. The losses will keep coming. The repetitive, impetuous columns from local scribes will continue. One of these days, a couple pucks will bounce right and the losing streak will end. Then a new one will start. And in a few weeks, the team can take the next steps forward in pushing this whole thing in the right direction.

The next month is going to be a drag. But it’ll be over soon. Really.


Posted on February 2, 2015, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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