The Buffalo Sabres are out of it, the season is over. It may not be a surprise, but it has now become unacceptable.
The Buffalo Sabres need to cut the dead-wood that kept them afloat during the bad years, so they don’t weigh down the progression of the team. The parity between the top talent on the roster and the bottom is too stark – they need reinforcements and they need them now.
Every Sabres game this season seems like a shoot-out at the O-K-Corral, because the top few lines of talent are trying to overcompensate for the lack of scoring behind them. There are six Sabres with over 30 points this year: Kyle Okposo, Sam Reinhart, Ryan O’Reilly, Rasmus Ristolainen, Jack Eichel and Evander Kane.
Brian Gionta isn’t far behind with 27 points, which is a reasonable — but not outstanding — haul for a third line winger. After that, the drop-off is clear.
The Problem Players
Matt Moulson has 23 points, but nine of his 12 goals came on the powerplay in Eichel’s absence. His five-on-five play has basically been non-existent.
Marcus Foligno has just 17 points as a player who spent a bulk of time playing with Eichel and Reinhart. Considering that Foligno only has seven assists playing with guys who have 28 goals combined, it doesn’t quite add up.
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Then there is the most disappointing duo of Tyler Ennis, with just nine points in 31 games, and Zach Bogosian, with just six in 36. Now there are the advanced stats such as Corsi and Fenwick percentages which rate Franson as one of the few positive Sabres, that may get him a pass.
However, Moulson’s positive CF% numbers are probably skewed by only averaging a little over nine minutes of even strength a night and his early season time on the top powerplay unit. Those numbers also have Ristolainen and Okposo ranked pretty poorly too, which I can only imagine is a result of the sheer desperation mode in which they play.
The Sabres’ top five forwards and Ristolainen are in a constant state of carrying this team, as the fans will have seen throughout the season. If one or two of them don’t produce, the game is effectively lost.
Eichel summed it up best when he said the Sabres’ are “slowly pissing their chances away”. Management is wasting valuable time in these talented players’ careers, if they do not surround them with the support they need to succeed.