The Sabres debuted some new lines today with right winger Alex Tuch taking a maintenance day and Kyle Okposo (lower body) still attempting to work his way back into the lineup. Here are the line combinations courtesy of Sabres.com:
The Sabres recently claimed Jost off waivers which obviously makes him a perfect addition to the first line. The Alberta native has played 354 contests across parts of seven seasons with Colorado and Minnesota, and he has amassed 112 points in that time. A 2016 first-round pick at 10th overall, Jost has mostly been used as a depth forward in a defensive role since entering the NHL full-time in his D +1 year. Here’s his 3-year player card via evolving-hockey:
Why did the team pick him up? He’s better than Anders Bjork, I guess. Maybe? The other possibility is that Rochester desperately needed the intangibles of Anders Bjork back, so the organization took a flyer on another bottom-six forward that isn’t really all that good at defense. That sounds familiar. Look, I’m not here to roast Jost or Bjork (actually I absolutely am
here to do that), but the bigger problem with this move is that it reeks of Sabre aquisitions from years past when a GM would acquire someone – anyone – to prove that the team is trying to do something, even if it’s really a nothing move. Jost is Michael Frolik or Malcolm Subban.
They’re rearranging deck chairs on the sinking SS Sabre.
This season looks like it’s over whether we want to admit it or not. They’ve lost eight straight and they would need to go on an absolute heater to get back into playoff contention while also passing several teams that are pretty obviously better than them en route to a playoff berth. I count nine bona-fide playoff contenders for eight playoff spots currently: Bruins, Leafs, Lightning, Panthers, Devils, Hurricanes, Islanders, Rangers and Penguins. That list also doesn’t include the Red Wings who currently occupy a playoff spot, nor does it count the Capitals who have earned the right to be counted among playoff-caliber teams due to their track record of not being terrible for 12 years.
Are the Sabres better than any of these teams? Probably not, even if the underlying numbers give the smallest bit of hope that Buffalo can at least get #InTheHunt for a little while after yet another disastrous November. At the same time, the crushing reality is that the Sabres are likely completely out of the race before Thanksgiving yet again. So how did we get here?
The team can play the injury card if they want, but if an injury to Mattias Samuelsson sinks your team, you’re probably a pretty bad team. There’s no offense meant to Samuelsson who is a solid defender in his own right; this is an indictment on a shallow team that opted to make only one addition to the defensive group because Jacob Bryson was seen as an up-and-comer.
Likewise, poor puck luck over the first quarter of the season is just not going to cut it as a valid reason for the results so far. This team bleeds high-danger chances against, and while the goaltending hasn’t been super, it hasn’t been unbelievably bad. Even if you think the goaltending has been bad, how much better could goaltending have been expected to be when the starting goalie was unproven and the other is 41? This is pretty much exactly what we should have expected.
The reality is that the team isn’t good enough. There are two possible explanations as to why the team isn’t good enough.
The first possibility is that management didn’t make enough upgrades to last year’s mediocre team because Adams and co. may have believed that this squad was a “brotherhood of men” who would jump through a wall to ignite their teammates. That certainly hasn’t happened. Whether or not you believe hits or fits matter, this team has shown nothing in the way of fight or grit when things are looking down, and the result of that passivity has been the bland product on the ice that we’ve watched. To be fair, if someone tries to grab Montreal’s Arber Xhekaj tomorrow and that person gets his head knocked off in the process, well that probably won’t do much for morale.
The other possibility is that the team is on an internal budget and ownership is on cruise control (yacht pun very much intended) in order to lower operating costs. Maybe both are true. Honestly who cares? These articles about the Sabres being terrible aren’t fun to write anymore. There’s nothing cathartic or liberating about beating a horse that died 10 years ago and is now just a pile of moldering bones.
And for those who would say that this is an expected outcome, and that this season was never meant to be a playoff season, that may be true, but good god they couldn’t even make a show of it for three months before barfing all over themselves and hiding in the corner like a sick dog. It’s just unbelievable how often this team has lit itself on fire and jumped off a cliff in recent seasons. It’s a skill to be this comically inept.
Insert paragraph here where I explain how they still have time to turn things around.
Delete that paragraph because they don’t deserve the benefit of the doubt.
Tuesday’s game against Montreal figures to be the last fork in the road for the Sabres this year. If they have any interest in being a team even worth thinking about, then they need to show up and show out against Montreal. Another loss further cements their reputation as the worst professional sports franchise in North America.
Honestly it’s just sad.