The next six weeks could be one of the most critical periods in the history of the Buffalo Sabres. The organization is well past the relatively easy phase of getting rid of current assets for potential future gems. They no longer possess a gaudy quantity of high draft picks and prospects* that would permit lavish quantity-for-quality deals.
On paper, the team should have been a bubble playoff contender this season. On ice; they failed miserably. However, there were statistical anomalies (and those are what I focus on when trying to discern future results) that indicate that the paper version of this team may actually be a more representative indication of what to expect on ice. Their PP unit lead the league, and they had an outstanding record vs. playoff teams. (Obviously this means they were a suck vs. non-playoff teams.)
We've had a few weeks to reflect on the HC's expected dismissal, and the surprising firing of the GM. It all points to a dual failure: a poor strategy with personnel ill-prepared to execute the (flawed) game plan. And, more seriously, an organization that was incoherent and not able to communicate effectively internally.
The outcome was an extremely young team that had no real plan, and was particularly prone to frustration. However, they had sufficient talent to occasionally rise above that.
I ask this: what is the identity of the Buffalo Sabres? In truth, I doubt anyone has a clue, because they never worked hard to establish and implement that identity.
As a fan, this is extremely frustrating since the whole purpose behind blowing up this team was to move from being a mediocre playoff contender, to a legitimate SC contender. Two or three years of that effort may have been wasted.
I'll return to post what I think the next six weeks could look like. I will say that the team is not going off the rails and will go back to tanking. But, they have a basic question that must be answered quickly: can 1) a new scheme, a few new players, and an offseason reset button sufficiently energize this roster to take a major step forward in 2017-18, or 2) does this team to shed some of the roster of malcontents? The second option would not likely result in an improved team this coming season; it would be akin to one step backwards for two steps forward in a year or two.
The objective is unchanged: become a SC contender. This can happen, but the decisions made over the next six weeks will likely be looked back upon as the deciding ones that determined success or failure.
Go Cornell Big Red - County Kilkenny - Go Cats!