The 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres are a bad hockey club. More breaking news to follow.
They are 1-6-0 and with road games this week with the Los Angeles Kings and San Jose Sharks, 1-8-0 is practically an inevitability. With a 38.5 percent Fenwick close and a PDO of exactly 100, there's a terrific chance that the Sabres of the moment will be the Sabres of the next 75 games. A second consecutive historically bad season is on the horizon.
The good news: At the end of this rainbow comprised of sadness, shame and frustration is Connor McDavid, a generational talent who has drawn comparisons with Sidney Crosby.
The bad news: The Sabres might be so beyond help that the arrival of McDavid won't offer the instantaneous turnaround that occurred with Crosby and the Penguins.
(Of course, the draft lottery could result in the Sabres picking second, thus losing out on McDavid, but let's say the Sabres catch at least one break this season.)
Let's assume McDavid is the equal of Crosby, which is a big assumption considering Crosby is the best player in the world by a mile. In Crosby's final two seasons of junior in the QMJHL, he led the league in scoring with 135 points in 59 games in 2003-04, then posted a league-best 168 points (102 assists) in 62 games the following season.
McDavid finished fourth in the OHL with 99 points in 56 games last season; with nine goals and 29 points in 10 games this season, he's on pace for an astronomical 197 points in 68 games.
McDavid is a game-changer, a player for which tanking should be mandatory for the likes of the Sabres. If the Sabres offered fans a chance to play goaltender for a period in all home games this season in an effort to facilitate landing McDavid, I don't know if anyone could blame them. At least then they'd be honest about their tanking.
The question with McDavid is, just how much game-changing could he do with the Sabres?
Consider the arrival of Crosby to the Penguins in 2005-06. The 2003-04 club finished dead-last with 58 points, which seems like an attainable number for this year's Sabres. Crosby posted 39 goals and 102 points in his rookie season, helping the Penguins attain 58 points in the standings for the second season in a row.
Three years later, Crosby and the Penguins won a Stanley Cup in 2009. All three seasons featured playoff berths, with the final two seasons including a trip to the Stanley Cup Final in 2008.
Within four years of Crosby's arrival in the NHL, the Penguins went to two Stanley Cup Finals, winning one of them.
Despite the greatness of McDavid, it seems far-fetched to think the same thing can happen with the Sabres.
Crosby's first season will probably look a lot like McDavid's presumptuous first one in Buffalo. Crosby led the Penguins in goals his rookie season with 39 and was followed by 37-year-old Mark Recchi (24), 36-year-old John LeClair (22) and 26-year-old Ryan Malone (22).
Recchi, LeClair and Malone have a real Brian Gionta, Matt Moulson and Drew Stafford feel to them, don't they?
Everything began to change for the Penguins in Crosby's second season, which coincided with the first seasons of Evgeni Malkin and Jordan Staal. Malkin was in the Penguins' system before Crosby, as he was taken in the 2004 draft, while Staal was the result of the Penguins failing to improve during Crosby's rookie season.
It also helped to have selected Marc-Andre Fleury, who was years from falling off the cliff and becoming the goaltender he is today, with the first pick in the 2003 draft.
Crosby is the face of the NHL and will always get more credit and blame than he does for successes and failures, but the Penguins had a good thing going before and after Crosby's arrival. That aided them into becoming the perennial force they are today.
What do the Sabres have?
They certainly don't have their own Fleury. They have 26-year-olds Michal Neuvirth and Jhonas Enroth, who boast career save percentages of .911 and .913, respectively. If the Sabres are following the Penguins' plan of drafting a star and raising a Cup four years later, it won't be either of these goaltenders doing the Cup lifting.
In the system, the Sabres have sixth-round picks Nathan Lieuwen and Linus Ullmark, the undrafted Andrey Makarov, fifth-round pick Calvin Petersen and third-round pick Jonas Johansson. Based on pedigree and age, the 19-year-old Johansson might the team's goaltender if and when things turn around in Buffalo, but that's a 105-point font-sized if.
The Sabres also don't have their version of Malkin floating around their system. While the Penguins were using Crosby-Malkin-Staal down the middle, the Sabres potential version of McDavid-Sam Reinhart-Mikhail Grigorenko wouldn't be anywhere close to that.
The Sabres have the top-ranked prospect pool, according to HockeysFuture, but they don't have the game-changers the Penguins had a decade ago.
If the rumors are true and the Sabres deal defenseman Tyler Myers, they will be so far behind where the Penguins were in terms of talent when they drafted Crosby that the time for imagining a similar rebirth in Buffalo should be brought to an end.
The one thing the Sabres have going for them is three first-round and three second-round picks in the 2015 draft. That means what they do after they theoretically select McDavid will decide their immediate and long-term success just as much as McDavid. With the foundation of Reinhart, three second-round picks and two third-round picks in the 2014 draft, the Sabres are set up more for the John Tavares method of rebuilding.
The Isles took Tavares with the No. 1 pick in 2009 but also selected defenseman Calvin de Haan with the 12th pick. They grabbed Casey Cizikas and Anders Lee, two players who will contribute this season, in the fourth and sixth round, respectively.
But it was the previous season that mattered just as much to the Islanders becoming a playoff team in 2013 and perhaps again in 2015, as they took forward Josh Bailey in the first round and defenseman Travis Hamonic in the second round. The Islanders didn't exactly hit on a lot of their 13 picks in 2008, but they did enough to help foster a turnaround in the coming years.
That's the path that seems to make the most sense for the Sabres, who won't know for a few years how they did with their nine picks in 2014. If time reveals the Sabres did only a slightly better job than the Islanders in 2008, maybe they can be regular playoff participants by 2018.
That probably seems depressing, especially considering all the McDavid/Crosby hype and comparisons. But it's probably for the best for Sabres fans to expect a gradual return to respectability along the lines of Tavares than it is to expect to be an instant, dominant squad like the Penguins became with Crosby.
All statistics via NHL.com.
Dave Lozo covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. You can follow him on Twitter: @DaveLozo.
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It's been a rough start to the Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 season, but not too many can say they didn't expect it.
The team sits at 1-6-0, squarely last in the league while also ranking last in a number of important areas of the game. As far as starts go, it seems the 4-15-1 start under Ron Rolston last year is well within reach, and it could possibly be even worse.
So what can be gleaned from the Sabres' first seven games? Well, beyond the fact that it's going to be a long, long season?
Last week the Buffalo Sabres already had a major outlet reporting that one of their more prominent players is on the trading block.
Looks like not much has changed from last season, after all.
Darren Dreger and Pierre LeBrun of TSN both acknowledged the availability of Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers last week (h/t George Malik of Kukla's Korner), starting the first Buffalo trade frenzy of the young season.
Myers has not lived up to his billing as the Calder Trophy winner in the past few seasons, but his play has certainly gotten stronger since last season's departure of Ron Rolston. In an albeit small sample size, Myers' play this season has been one of the few bright spots on this Sabres team.
So far this year, Myers is (somehow) an even plus-minus and is eighth in the league in ice time per game, including his 29-plus minute game Tuesday against the Carolina Hurricanes. His advanced metrics are even more impressive, as his plus-12.1 percent relative Corsi despite only 28.57 percent of his shifts starting in the offensive zone, via War-On-Ice, is excellent.
These stats are likely just one reason of why the Sabres have been receiving calls for Myers, with his size and talent also being a huge motivator for the rest of the NHL.
According to LeBrun and Dreger, the Anaheim Ducks, who just walloped the Sabres 5-1 Monday afternoon, seem to be the team most interested in the 6'8" blueliner, but others, like the Detroit Red Wings have apparently also inquired.
But a passing interest is obviously different than coming up with an offer that Sabres general manager Tim Murray will find acceptable.
TSN's Bob McKenzie acknowledged that the price will be high, as one would expect, but how high is "high?"
McKenzie's tweet acknowledged that "many teams" were interested in Myers, so one can expect that in order for a team to secure his services, they will have to outbid the others.
Myers, much like Zdeno Chara early in his career, is a unique commodity in this NHL. If he were to regain his Calder form, which he may─stress on may─be on his way to doing, his value would be near that of the top-tier defensemen in the league.
So what would the Sabres expect in return for Myers?
"High price" lends itself to some relatively easy assumptions, namely a top prospect and a first-round pick, preferably in the 2015 draft. That could also equal a top-six forward that can play in the NHL right away, plus some lesser draft picks.
The plus for Murray in these discussions is that both Anaheim and Detroit have deep prospect pools from which to create a deal.
For Detroit, one can imagine Murray's eye is on Anthony Mantha, the leading goal scorer and point getter in the QMJHL last season. A 6'5", 205-pound beast, Mantha would go a long way to solidifying the Sabres' depth at right wing.
Now, the thought of the Red Wings trading their top-rated prospect (according to Hockey's Future) is likely more than a bit far-fetched, especially for someone as inconsistent as Myers the past few seasons. That would likely mean some of Detroit's other great prospects would come up in conversation.
Andreas Athanasiou, currently with the Grand Rapids Griffins of the AHL, is another high-scoring winger with size. Athanasiou finished tied for second in the OHL in goals last season with 49 before moving on to the AHL. Tomas Jurco has also been impressive in his brief time in the NHL, scoring 15 points in 38 games with the Wings.
The underlying aspect to any deal with the Red Wings will be their first-round pick, and the ever-present discussion of whether or not this is the year they finally miss the playoffs. Every year they seem to find a way, and even opened a 3-1 series lead over the Chicago Blackhawks in the 2012 Western Conference Semifinals.
But, this year, as with the last few years, the Wings are not a lock for the postseason. Murray might have his sights on what could be a third lottery pick, despite the New York Islanders' torrid start to the season potentially a flaw in that plan.
A deal with Anaheim, despite their deep prospect pool, may be a bit trickier because of an assumed reluctance to give away pieces of their active roster.
As it stands, the best Anaheim forward prospects currently not on the NHL team are Nick Ritchie, their 2014 first-round selection, Nick Sorensen, who is currently in Sweden, Stefan Noesen, who is coming off a significant injury, and Nicolas Kerdiles, the University of Wisconsin product currently with the AHL's Norfolk Admirals.
Ritchie certainly has top-end potential as a goal scorer, but one can imagine that he is about as close to off limits as it can get for a Ducks team looking to keep its depth. Sorensen and Kerdiles have shown top-six potential, but both are a ways off from that, if they reach it at all. Noesen has come back from a season-ending knee injury last season to start the year with Norfolk, so his pro game is yet to be truly evaluated.
If Murray is not content with one of those four guys being the centerpiece, the Ducks would have to part with someone like Emerson Etem, Rickard Rakell, William Karlsson or Jakob Silfverberg. That's a move that would be harder to make simply because it affects the locker room this season, and the Ducks have already done some of that by trading for Ryan Kesler.
Basically, this is not an easy trade to make for either side. Murray would be giving up what is likely an excellent NHL player who is still only 24 years old. Anaheim or Detroit would be giving up something of pretty substantial value, and both teams have reasons to hold on to whatever Murray would ask for in exchange for Myers.
So while it's easy to hear Detroit and assume Mantha and a first-rounder—and other teams will undoubtedly join the fold and similar packages will be pined for by Sabres fans—this is inherently more complex than that.
But if Myers continues to impress the eye-test people and the stats people as the Sabres continue to play so poorly, one can only imagine Tim Murray is going to have a lot of people that want to try and make it work.
Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18
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The Buffalo Sabres' 2014-15 season begins Thursday night with a matchup against what should be a solid Columbus Blue Jackets team. To say expectations are low may be the understatement of the century.
Coming off arguably one of the worst seasons in NHL history, the Sabres had a lot of work to do to become respectable this season. General manager Tim Murray, beginning his first full season, has seemingly done that by adding a few veteran faces to what would otherwise be an extremely young team.
Head coach Ted Nolan also brought in Hall of Fame center Bryan Trottier and former Moncton Wildcat (of the QMJHL) head coach Danny Flynn as his assistants. Both of them should have a positive impact on the younger players in the system.
But despite these improvements, what will the final result be on the ice? Here are a few predictions for the upcoming season.
With less than a week remaining until the Buffalo Sabres begin their highly anticipated 2014-15 season, a lot of questions remain.
It's a bit odd saying that a team expected to be among the worst in the league, if not the worst, can have anything anticipated, but the drama surrounding the 2015 NHL draft (and Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel) is the catalyst for the Sabres.
As the numerous catchphrases to encapsulate the season, i.e., Mission for McDavid, start swirling, what are the biggest questions of the Sabres' season?