The Buffalo Sabres have spent almost a decade attempting to rebuild the team, and now they look set to kick-start brand new rebuilding efforts once again.
It’s been a difficult time for Buffalo Sabres fans, who have endured so much disappointment since they last played a post-season game, which came in a 5-2 Game Seven loss to the Philadelphia Flyers back on April 26th 2011 – more than a decade ago.
In their first 40 years of existence, the Sabres missed the playoffs just 11 times. After that loss to the Flyers, little did the franchise, or indeed the fanbase, expect to go on the longest playoff drought in the NHL.
During that time, so much was done to attempt to rebuild the Sabres into a competitive franchise that would overcome the obstacles in front of them and get things back on track, with memories of the Dominik Hasek-led era still fresh in the memory.
More from Buffalo Sabres
- Buffalo Sabres and Victor Olofsson making progress on contract extension
- Buffalo Sabres still need goaltender help despite re-signing Anderson
- Buffalo Sabres: Time to close book on the Jack Eichel chapter
- Buffalo Sabres receiving interest in members of defensive core
- Buffalo Sabres focused on youth during another disastrous season
Now, though, it feels as if those glory days are a distant, faded memory for the Sabres, and it’s growing increasingly difficult for fans to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Unfortunately, it’s conceivable that the tunnel will continue to be all they experience in the immediate future, with the team seemingly set to start a brand new rebuilding process all over again.
The future of team captain and legitimate star Jack Eichel has been all the rage since his most recent interview, where it seemed clear that he was willing to move on for the betterment of his career.
Now, Sportsnet’s own Elliotte Friedman, talking to Buffalo-based WGR 550, has suggested that the franchise itself may be keen on parting ways with their best player.
Eichel has been the face of this franchise and, almost as important, the face of the rebuild, having been selected second overall in the 2015 Draft, with the Sabres narrowly missing out on superstar Connor McDavid.
Eichel, who was the second consecutive second overall pick by the Sabres, who had taken Sam Reinhart in 2014, has proven himself to be a legitimate top tier player in the NHL, but the supporting cast around him hasn’t quite reached the required level to tip the team into the next bracket.
Veterans such as Kyle Okposo and Jeff Skinner have been added over the years, trying to find a way to build a competitive team, with a number of coaches taking them helm with no tangible success to speak of.
With Eichel, and perhaps even Reinhart, likely to have played their last game for the Sabres, it would be a clear indicator that the franchise is looking for a clean slate once more.
The Buffalo Sabres have some promising young players, including Rasmus Dahlin and Dylan Cozens, and they also hold the first overall pick in the 2021 Draft, which will likely see them land the rights to promising defensive prospect Owen Power – giving them some solid, young building blocks.
With five picks in the first three rounds, the Sabres will be able to restock the prospect cupboard and begin working towards a new horizon. This will be made even more the case if the team parts ways with Eichel and Reinhart, who would combine for a plethora of picks and assets that can contribute to an ideal rebuilding start point.
Sabres fans likely won’t want to see the team go through yet another attempt at rebuilding, but it seems inevitable at this stage. The hope this time around will be that a clear plan is set out that the team follows, in order to ensure a well-rounded team with a clear identity can be built and observable progress can be made towards being a playoff team once again.
Hard times have been endured for the past ten years, but it looks as if those times will continue for the foreseeable future, but perhaps this process will be different and can truly benefit the team in the long-run.