The Buffalo Sabres ended a 40-game streak of scoring three or fewer goals with Saturday's 6-2 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs at the First Niagara Center, per Elias Sports Bureau (via ESPN.com).

The unfortunate streak was the third-longest of its kind in NHL history, and both previous instances occurred before 1930, back when forward passing was illegal in the offensive zone.

Buffalo's streak dated back to Feb. 28, when the Sabres recorded a surprising 4-2 win over the San Jose Sharks.

Now just 4-13-2 this season, the Sabres had a 6-30-4 record during the 40-game run of futility. They only scored three goals on four occasions during the streak, which included eight games without any goals.

Four different Buffalo goalies lost at least one game in regulation throughout the 40-game span, with Connor Knapp adding an overtime loss in last season's final game.

While things seemingly can't get any worse for the Sabres, the team hasn't shown any signs of improvement this season aside from Saturday's blowout victory.

Buffalo's 10 points are worst in the NHL, and the team's minus-38 goal differential is in a league of its own. Entering Sunday's action, no other team has a goal differential worse than minus-15, a mark held by both the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers.

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It's certainly no secret that the Buffalo Sabres are a tire fire this season.

One of the few questions that could possibly remain for Sabres fans, aside from how bad the team actually could be, is the fate of head coach Ted Nolan

Nolan made a triumphant return to Buffalo last November alongside former Sabre great Pat LaFontaine, and the smile on the coach's face said everything. Nolan had finally made it back to the NHL after a brief stint with the New York Islanders from 2006-08, something that probably seemed extremely unlikely a few years before. 

But that smile faded quickly.

The Sabres finished with a record of 21-51-10, including a 17-39-9 mark under the leadership of Nolan. LaFontaine, who was hired as the president of hockey operations, left the organization in March for reasons that no one is still entirely clear on. 

Yet despite all of that, Nolan was signed to a three-year extension at the end of March. This came as somewhat of a surprise, especially given LaFontaine's exit, but Nolan was given the opportunity to take this full-on rebuild to the contending stage. 

That brings us to this season.

Seventeen games in and the Sabres are a spectacular mess. Their 3-12-2 record is the worst in the NHL, and the supporting statistics suggest that they are lucky to have won three games. 

Of the three games they have won, two have been with a PDO─the sum of a team's shooting and save percentage in a game─over 104. That suggests a high amount of luck on both ends of the ice and, more specifically for the Sabres, a couple of amazing goaltending performances. In their overtime loss to the Bruins a few weeks ago, the Sabres had a PDO over 105.

Essentially, what that is saying is that with even with above-average goaltending performances in those three games, the Sabres are likely 1-14-1. 

Even those who don't take to the advanced stats cannot say they have seen anything that can refute what the advanced stats are saying. The Sabres have almost no transition game to speak of, and their offensive-zone play is almost hilariously bad. With two power-play goals to this point, the Sabres have essentially been giving opponents who take penalties a well-deserved two-minute breather.  

So, with all of this, Nolan has now found himself squarely in the crosshairs

While that may seem extremely premature given the expectations for the Sabres this year, it's hard to turn a blind eye to what has happened on the ice. Yes, the roster is not a contending one, but the Sabres shouldn't look like a college team. 

Nolan is beloved by (most) Buffalo fans, and a second exit would likely not go over entirely well with that segment of the fanbase, but as the season moves forward, and the team moves backwards, the decision might be an easy one.

The real problem is that the issues plaguing the Sabres and Nolan are ones that have caused many to question Nolan's ability to coach in the NHL in the past. 

He is not an X's and O's guy and typically resorts to stressing hustle and heart over implementing any systems to help improve the team's play. After Nolan's extension was announced, Justin Bourne of the Score wrote that "Nolan is one of those motivational guys who think that if you're losing, you're not competing hard enough."

That certainly has been the theory this year, as in pretty much every bad loss, Nolan has commented on the Sabres' effort level as the main reason they lost. Not the horrific power play. Not the penalty kill that parts like the Red Sea at the worst of times. Not the sheer lack of shots on goal. 

John Vogl of The Buffalo News wrote an article earlier this week citing Nolan's insistence that if the Sabres work harder, they'll be more successful. While the players, especially captain Brian Gionta, seem to be buying in to that line of thinking, it's hard to believe that it will last much longer if they continue to struggle at this level. 

Honestly, it's almost insulting to hear over and over again that the reason the team is struggling so badly is their effort level when a casual observer can see that the team is not well-coached to begin with. 

And that point brings the other major criticism of Nolan to the forefront: his inability to develop young players. 

As a rebuilding team, the young talent on the Sabres is clearly the most important thing this season. As it stands, of the players that can be deemed prospects, only Rasmus Ristolainen has played significant minutes game to game. 

Nikita Zadorov is in limbo, but he has seen time in the last three games. Sam Reinhart was (rightfully) sent back to his junior team after spending a majority of his time with the Sabres on the fourth line. Mikhail Grigorenko, Mark Pysyk, Chad Ruhwedel and Joel Armia have all been sent to Rochester when one can make an easy argument that they should all be with the Sabres based on their talent.

The key to the future is not with Cody McCormick or Torrey Mitchell. The key is in any number of the young guys who could turn the franchise around.

If Nolan continues to be hesitant to give significant minutes to more of these players, general manager Tim Murray will send him packing as fast as he extended him.

Needless to say, Nolan may be working on borrowed time from this point forward. If the Sabres were not in such a hapless position, he could have very well already been handed his walking papers. But they sit in last place and seemingly with no answers about how to improve their plight.

Many will say that this was the plan given the treasure that lies at the end of this ugly, ugly rainbow, but Murray has to make sure he has the guy behind the bench to move forward with either Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel. 

So, while there is a lot more hockey to be played, Nolan's fate could be one of the few mysteries left this season, and it's a divisive enough topic to keep most Sabres fans interested. 

 

Advanced stats courtesy of war-on-ice.com.

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season long: @SwordPlay18

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With the amount of young talent the Buffalo Sabres have on their roster, it was only a matter of time before a significant hurdle was encountered.

Enter the Nikita Zadorov saga.

Zadorov, the Sabres' second first-round selection in the 2013 NHL draft, is currently the center of a rights conflict that encompasses three leagues.

When the season began, many assumed that Zadorov might stick with the Sabres for any period of time less than the 10 games it would take to have his entry-level deal kick in and then head back to London of the OHL for the remainder of the season. Essentially, they would handle him the same as they did last season when he played seven games with the Sabres and then went back to play for the Knights. 

However, there is a wrinkle many were unaware of: Zadorov can─apparently─only play for a team in the CHL if the KHL signs a transfer agreement.

As acknowledged in the ProHockeyTalk article, and more specifically by Sabres general manager Tim Murray, the entire situation is incredibly unclear and he, and many others, are not too sure how this whole mess will work out. What is known is CSKA Moscow drafted Zadorov fourth overall in the 2012 KHL draft and own his rights there. 

But despite no one seemingly really knowing how to navigate the issue, the Sabres are left with two clear options: send Zadorov down to London and hope all goes well or keep him on the NHL roster and burn a year of his entry-level deal.

Now, as with most things, these options both have their pros and cons, but the biggest consideration in all of this is likely to be the control of Zadorov's development for the remainder of the season.

No matter what you make of Zadorov's inability to get into the lineup this year─ignoring the last two games─the kid has all the measurables to be a top-flight NHL defenseman in the very near future. He's 6'5", 235 pounds and is loaded with excellent skating and an explosive shot. 

Assuming Tyler Myers stays put, which admittedly may be a bad assumption, the Sabres will have three potential top-four defensemen standing at least 6'4" in Myers, Zadorov and Rasmus Ristolainen. While Myers has shied away from being the ultraphysical presence on the ice during his career, Zadorov and Ristolainen have shown a penchant for throwing their bodies around on top of their skills elsewhere.

Simply put, Zadorov is a huge part of the future for these Sabres and letting whatever happens happen with him for the next six-to-eight months is probably not something Murray is all too comfortable with.

Yes, staying with the Sabres for seven more games burns a year of his entry-level contract, and yes, most of this year may be spent in the press box, but Murray has him under his supervision during that time. Risking that he goes to the KHL and does not develop to Murray's standards is a huge risk. 

Beyond that, per Bill Hoppe of the Olean Times Herald, Zadorov is enjoying his time with the big club despite his lack of playing time up until this point. Not only that, but coach Ted Nolan is impressed with his desire to play as well as his work ethic in practice. If those things hold true, the worst thing that can happen is losing a year of his deal.

Now, it must be said that the dream would be to have Zadorov play in the AHL with the Rochester Americans. That is prohibited by the NHL-CHL transfer agreement, which does not allow prospects who do not turn 20 by December 31 of the year the season begins to play in the AHL. They must either play in the CHL, which is comprised of the OHL, QMJHL and WHL, or the NHL. 

Murray has been a huge advocate of changing this rule in some way and has been very vocal about it since Sam Reinhart was sent down. 

But unfortunately, Zadorov is stuck in limbo, which means he's "stuck" on the Sabres roster and maybe in the press box for now. The situation is not ideal, but it may be the best of a few terrible options out there.

 

Follow me on Twitter for NHL and Sabres news all season: @SwordPlay18.

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