The bright side is the Buffalo Sabres far more presented themselves as a team with a passing interest in winning a hockey game last night, more that can be said for their previous two opportunities.  Moral victories, however won’t put points on the standings.  The Sabres often played hard but stupid mistakes led them losing on the road to the San Jose Sharks, 3-2.

The Jack Eichel/Jason Pominville/Zegmus Girgensons line literally provided the entire offense—Pominville tallying both goals with both his linemates picking up an assist on each.

Here’s a few thoughts on this team that’s quickly becoming a clusterfuck:

♦ After last night’s loss Sabres goaltender Robin Lehner told reporters “This is awful. It’s not fun.”  We’re literally just four games into the regular season, not 64 and the team’s already laboring.  Sadly, Lehner’s not lying, as this has been pain equally painful for fans to watch. 

♦ Granted, it’s still too early to question Phil Housley as a head coach, but it’s blatantly obvious Buffalo’s on-ice product has seemingly taken a few steps back—particularly worrisome seeing they’re an organization that hasn’t seen the playoffs six seasons running.  It’s one thing to start 0-3-1  but the manner in which they’ve done so is quite disturbing.  The Sabres look like a lazy, uninspired group on the ice, evidenced by inexcusable defensive lapses and already surrendering four shorthanded goals.  I don’t want to be “that guy” after just four games but it feels like either Buffalo knows something about Housley the rest of the league didn’t or there’s a reason he hasn’t been a NHL head coach before.

♦ Ryan O’Reilly’s getting paid $7.5 million annually yet playing like a fourth liner right now. There’s no way around it—he’s been terrible through four games and it’s not like he’s playing with newbies either.  He’s been paired with Kyle Okposo (zero points) and after a brief (and unsuccessful) stint with Benoit Pouliot as the third wheel, Phil Housley placed the red-hot Evander Kane with them last night. It didn’t help.  There’s something wrong either physically and/or mentally with the Sabres co-captain, because he’s not even remotely close to the player we’ve seen over the past two years.   Are there guys out there performing worse than O’Reilly right now? Sure, but they’re not getting paid a franchise player salary.

♦ It’s a very good thing Jason Pominville is off to such a fast start because otherwise general manager Jason Botterill would be the subject of talk radio for getting fleeced in his summer deal with Minnesota.  Marco Sandella was supposed to be the cornerstone player in a deal that sent away Marcus Foligno and Tyler Ennis but has been an unmitigated disaster early on.  Scandella underwent hip surgery this past May and I certainly hope him not being up to full speed is an excuse for his horrific play thus far.  He was at his worst last night—taking a slashing penalty minutes into the game that led to San Jose’s first score and then literally leaving Timo Meier alone in front of the net for the their second.

♦ Wasn’t a fan of Zegmus Girgensons skating with Pominville and Jack Eichel before the game but Girgs, at least for the time being won me over with a strong performance. He played great and earned secondary assists on both Pommer goals.  I’m willing to let this line ride for a while.

♦ Sam Reinhart is rotting away on the third line and it’s only a matter of time before fans unfairly turn on him and call him a bust—just watch.  How about you try playing with Johan Larsson and Benoit Pouliot and expect to produce like a second overall pick.

MVP: Pominville had his second two-goal game of the season in four tries.  He and Kane have scored eight of Buffalo’s nine goals.  That’s seriously sad.

LVP: Scandella is directly responsible for San Jose’s first two goals.  He’s supposed to be vital to this team but at this rate will have fans yearning for the days of Mike Weber soon enough.

SUMMARY: The Sabres simply aren’t talented enough right now. The talent level in Rochester (Bailey, Baptiste, Nylander, Hasching, Guhle) is flat-out better than the back end of their NHL roster. 

If Botterill woke up this morning and decided in one swoop to put Pouliot, Matt Moulson, Jordan Nolan, Seth Griffith, Matt Tennyson, Jacob Josefson and Larsson all on waivers, how many would get picked up by any other team in the NHL? Quite possibly none.  Literally a third of the skaters in Buffalo’s lineup last night wouldn’t draw a single waiver claim from the rest of the league.  That’s woeful. 

Better days may be coming, but its arrival doesn’t have the imminence it appeared to a week or two ago.

UP NEXT: Sabres remain out west and take on Los Angeles tomorrow night.



(Episode 2) Islanders 6, Sabres 3: The One Where Our Power Play Sucks 

(Episode 1) Montreal 2, Sabres 1 (Shootout): The One Where We Suck At Shootouts 

(Episode 3) Devils 6, Sabres 2: The One Where The Honeymoon Is Over