The Buffalo Sabres kinda suck.
I’ve held off for as long as I can with that declaration but enough is enough —let’s call it what it is. This was allegedly a team that at a minimum would legitimately contend for a playoff spot this year, yet eight games one victory later it feels like the 2013-15 tanking years all over again.
Well rested after a four-game western road trip and hosting a Vancouver Canucks team logging their third road game in four nights, it was Buffalo who looked mentally and physically exhausted in a 4-2 loss. If you didn’t watch don’t be fooled by the score—it wasn’t remotely that close.
At the midpoint of the game Buffalo were being outshot on their own ice, 30-8. That’s not a misprint.
Justin Bailey scored the game’s first goal on a beautiful feed from Ryan O’Reilly and after Vancouver tied it up, Jack Eichel abused defensemen Ben Hutton to score a highlight goal that’ll be replayed all season to give Buffalo a 2-1 lead after one. Those two brilliant individual plays aside, the Sabres did nothing the rest of the game.
I don’t care if he’s been here for just eight games or 800, Phil Housley’s turning into a catastrophe as head coach. If you’re going to put Buffalo’s underachieving last year on Dan Blysma you damn well better lay the burden of the Sabres preposterous 2017-18 start on Housley’s shoulders. It’s unquestionably apparent this has been a team persistently unprepared to play and while the Sabres have had far less talented squads in recent years, I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve seen a softer team. We’re just 24 regulation periods into the season and I’ve lost count how many times opponents have scored on rebounds or redirections because defenders leave them alone in front of the net. You’d think the staff is fining players for taking out a guy in front of their goaltender. I’m almost yearning for the days of Mike Weber.
Of course as it’s been all season, any momentum Buffalo had dissipated less than six minutes into the second period when the Sabres had the audacity to go on the power play. Naturally the opportunistic Canucks made the Sabres pay for their gaffe, scoring the sixth shorthanded goal against Buffalo in just eight games. The Sabres allowed five all of last season.
The NHL all-time record for shorthanded goals allowed in a season is 22, equaled three times and most recently 21 years ago. Buffalo is on pace to obliterate that.
Also, what happened to Housley implementing a system that would result in the defense joining the rush and contributing in the goal column? A Sabres blue liner has yet to find the net once this season. I’m too lazy to look up the last time this team started the season without a defensive goal through their first eight games, but I’d bet it’s been awhile.
I don’t think Housley’s going to get fired anytime soon nor do I necessarily think he should be. But don’t preach patience to me. Developing line combinations that work often requires patience. Having a team come out and compete like professionals nightly doesn’t require patience from a new coach—it requires getting up someone’s ass and having your message reverberate through the locker room. It’s hard to imagine the arena timekeeper not getting this team to come out of the dressing room more locked in that what we’ve seen so far this season. It’s inexcusable how lethargic Buffalo often plays. This is supposed to be a new era!
Say it’s early all you want. We’re just one tenth through the season but Buffalo’s already buried behind six teams deep for a wild card spot with no end in sight. It’s not even Halloween and it feels like Buffalo will be yet again chasing a high lottery pick instead of a playoff spot.
“We need more pride in this dressing room.”
– Marco Scandella said to The News
— John Vogl (@BuffNewsVogl) October 21, 2017
Gee, Marco—ya think?
MVP: Justin Bailey looked the part of a top six forward, scoring for a second time in three games and providing more offensive energy than anyone not named Eichel. I hope Housley keeps him on a prominent line for a long stretch, he’s far more deserving than most.
LVP: I don’t know how much Kyle Okposo is still under the weather and/or if he’s at all slowed down by last season’s illness, but this guy looks like a shell of himself right now. His skating is slow, he has no goals and one assist in eight games is a minus-seven already. He was deservedly benched for stretches tonight.
UP NEXT: The Sabres jump on a plane and play in Boston against the Bruins tonight. If this is how they play when rested, I can’t imagine how ugly this may turn out.
(Episode 7) Vegas 5, Sabres 4 (OT): The One Where I Fell Asleep
(Episode 6) Sabres 3, Ducks 1: The One Where Buffalo Breaks Their Cherry
(Episode 5) Kings 4, Sabres 2: The One Where Rasmus Goes Soft
(Episode 4) Sharks 3, Sabres 2: The One Where “It’s Not Fun”
(Episode 3) Devils 6, Sabres 2: The One Where The Honeymoon Is Over
(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