Buffalo Sabres: What Can We Expect in the 2nd Half of the Season?


At first glance, it seems two Buffalo Sabres teams have taken the ice in the team’s first 41 games this season. 

There’s the version that has gone 4-21-3 in two long stretches, and there’s the team that went 10-3-0 and gave the fans hope that maybe this team was good enough to make the playoffs. 

As it stands now, the Sabres are 14-24-3, good for 31 points and 28th in the NHL. Any realistic Sabres fan would not have expected much more out of this team to start the season, and aside from the late-November through early-December run, things could be much, much worse.

To say the Sabres have been embarrassingly bad for most of the first half of the season is an understatement. Just looking at the more commonplace statistics, the Sabres are last in the NHL in shots for per game and last in shots against per game. They also have the least amount of goals for, averaging a meager 1.76 goals per game, while allowing the most goals per game at 3.39 per contest. 

Those stats alone say everything that needs to be said about the Sabres’ season. 

But it gets worse.

The Sabres have a Corsi differential of -1086 for the season so far. That means that the Sabres have about 26 more shots, whether they are on net, missed or blocked, directed toward their net per game than they attempt on the opposition’s net. 

What this means at its simplest level is the Sabres spend way too much time in their own zone, and despite all the attention of the coaching staff on this, it’s really only gotten worse.

Including the Sabres’ 6-2 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on November 15, they have won 11 games. Of those wins, they have controlled possession─had a Corsi-for percentage of 50 percent or more─only once, their 4-3 shootout victory over the Florida Panthers on December 13. 

In fact, including the Panthers win, the Sabres only cracked 40-percent Corsi-for four times. Four times! That in turn means that the Sabres were the beneficiaries of a high shooting percentage and a very hot goalie in Jhonas Enroth.

Well, since that win against the Panthers in December, the Sabres are 1-8-1, and Enroth has cooled off.

Granted, the Sabres have done a bit better with possession (in a relative sense) having carried possession twice in the last 10 games, but Enroth and Michal Neuvirth have combined for a .867 save percentage, a stretch that has normalized the season numbers for both.

Now, circling back to the initial premise of the article, it was said that the Sabres seem to have skated out two different teams this season, a winning one and a losing one.

In reality, the stats show that the Sabres have been the same team all along but a team that rode a hot streak—also known as luck—to a record that had them four points out of a wild card at one point.  

And with that realization in mind, Sabres fans should expect a long second half of the season. 

Ted Nolan can kick and scream all he wants, but until he institutes any semblance of a power play or tightens up the penalty kill—ranked 30th and 29th in the league, respectively—this team will not improve. 

General manager Tim Murray also has a few players that he can likely corral for a few more future pieces. Armed with three first-round picks in June’s draft, Murray likely will be hard-pressed to land another one unless the player going the opposite way is named Tyler Myers, but names like Drew Stafford and Chris Stewart may yield a second-rounder for the Sabres. 

But the picks or players that may be the Sabres’ is entirely speculative and not worth the time. What is worthwhile is the simple fact that this roster is going to have some potentially significant turnover in the very near future. That turnover, especially if it includes Enroth, Stafford or Myers, could make this team even worse, much like the Ryan Miller-Steve Ott trade did last year. 

So while the tanking talk is understandably divisive among the Sabres fanbase, it may not be much of an issue to debate for much longer. If this current 1-8-1 stretch is indicative of the next 41 games, 30th place is a given, not a possibility. 


All advanced statistics courtesy of war-on-ice.com

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

Read more Buffalo Sabres news on BleacherReport.com

Speak Your Mind

Tell us what you're thinking...