Should the Buffalo Sabres Be Concerned About Their Struggles at Traverse City?


Lost this weekend in the euphoria surrounding the other Buffalo team, the Buffalo Sabres‘ highly touted group of prospects traveled to Traverse City, Michigan, to play in the annual prospects tournament. 

The last two trips have been extremely successful for the young Sabres, having won the championship in 2011 and finished as the runner-up in 2013. Many expected the Sabres to be the favorite coming into the tournament, including Sports Illustrated’s Allan Muir.

So with the round-robin portion done, the Sabres sit at 0-3 while getting outscored 15-5 in that span. 

Not exactly what many expected from the group—so is it a cause for concern?

The short answer is, no, it’s not. 

The tournament is a huge disappointment, especially with the expectations these kids have on them now as one of the most talented groups in the NHL, but the end result in Traverse City doesn’t make much of a difference. 

The first thing to consider is this is the first time a lot of these guys have played together in a game situation against a different team. Sure, they scrimmaged each other in development camp, but that’s certainly not the same. 

One of the more common issues for a team that has not played much together is trouble on all aspects of special teams. True to the script, the Sabres allowed six power-play goals and one short-handed goal in their first three games of the tournament, while only managing one power-play goal themselves. 

And while a poor special teams effort is never a good thing, the fact that they struggled with them is neither surprising nor a cause for concern. More time in the system, and with these new teammates, will iron out most of the wrinkles.

Another positive for the Sabres was they were generating chances despite the inability to finish. 

In their 6-1 loss against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first game of the tournament, the Sabres outshot the Canes 35-20. A poor performance by Andrey Makarov and the team’s inability to get the puck in the net despite a ton of opportunities led to the lopsided loss. 

Their next game, a 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers, saw them put 37 shots on net, and again only one was able to sneak by. 

The Sabres’ 7-3 loss against the Dallas Stars did not see a 30-plus shot effort, but after a slow start the Sabres were able to find some chances. Unfortunately, they weren’t enough to shake off three first-period goals by the Stars. 

The chances were there, the Sabres just finished on what can only be seen as a disproportionately low number of them. In an entire season’s worth of games, the Sabres would likely have a bit more puck luck than these three games provided. 

And even with the poor team-wide performances, some players stood out in a positive way. Joel Armia was named a standout player by ESPN’s Corey Pronman (subscription required), a very encouraging sign after an up-and-down season with Rochester last year. 

While it may also be a disappointment that Sam Reinhart isn’t on that list, as with the rest of the team, one tournament will not make or break his season, let alone his career. He should be judged on his preseason and his first nine games—and not on a prospect tournament.

So, overall, while general manager Tim Murray and the Sabres brass are likely not pleased with the result this past week, the Sabres are still on the right track with an extremely talented prospect pool and three first-rounders next year to make it even deeper.

Deep breaths, Sabres fans. 


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