The three reasons the Buffalo Sabres are underwhelming this season
By Franklin Heinzmann
BUFFALO,. N.Y. – It would be very surprising if this team managed to finish 26th overall this season, with how bad the Sabres have played. The Sabres are cellar dwellers in the Eastern Conference once again. This can be attributed to an overwhelming amount of injuries, many of the team’s star players not performing up to expectations, and head coach Phil Housley’s lack of experience.
The Sabres have had to deal with a staggering amount of injuries. The defenseman have had the hardest time dealing with this.
Each of the following defenseman have seen time on the Sabres roster this season: Rasmus Ristolainen, Marco Scandella, Josh Gorges, Zach Bogosian, Nathan Beaulieu, Jake McCabe, Viktor Antipin, Justin Falk, Taylor Fedun, Matt Tennyson, Zach Redmond, and Casey Nelson. The players that are on the second half of the list were supposed to be players that stayed on the Rochester Americans, the minor league affiliate of the Sabres.
The injury bug has bitten the Sabres this year, so much that they’ve had to play with minor league defenseman, but it is unacceptable to think it is the only reason the Sabres aren’t winning games.
Star Players Underachieving
The offense hasn’t been able to put pucks in the back of the net, but shockingly the dependable star players aren’t able to score.
As of Nov. 26, Jack Eichel is currently on pace for 23 goals, Kyle Okposo is on pace for 11 goals and Sam Reinhart is on pace for 17 goals. Those would be career lows for each of the mentioned players (excluding seasons with under 50 games played). Evander Kane has been the bright spot on offense scoring 12 goals in 24 games which is tied for 6th in the league.
The star players get paid the big bucks for a reason, so we can be sure that once they turn their game around, the rest of the team will follow.
Coach Housley’s Growing Pains
Despite this year being Housley’s first year as being a head coach, some of the regrettable decisions that he has made don’t take years of coaching in the NHL to gure out. For example, Matt Tennyson, who as of Nov. 26, has a -8 Plus/Minus rating, shouldn’t be getting more ice-time than Josh Gorges or Viktor Antipin. Both combine for a -5 Plus/Minus rating. It wasn’t until Tennyson was placed on the injured reserve list on Nov. 7 that forced Housley not to give Tennyson an excessive amount of ice time.
It also took until the 16th game of the season for Housley to play the same exact unit on the powerplay that led the Sabres to the best power play percentage in the NHL last season. A wise man once said, ‘If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.’
Even though they are losing games in the process, the only way Housley is going to learn what’s right and what’s wrong is by coaching games. Similar to how someone gets better at long division problems. They keep doing them over and over again until they get it right.
On the bright side, the three biggest reasons that the team has played so badly can be fixed. The defense is almost fully healed, Housley will learn the dos and don’ts, and the stars get paid the big bucks for a reason. The keen eye has noticed slight improvement, but overall the team’s performance is not even close to what we thought it be, and where it needs to be.