The Emotional Roller Coaster of Being a Buffalo Sabres Fan
By Tyler Hickey
The year is 2011 and the Sabres had just been eliminated for the playoffs in the second round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Fast forward seven years, five coaches and two general managers later, it looks like the playoff drought is almost over. The Sabres currently sit four points out of a playoffs spot. When their dramatic increase in point production can be attributed to the 10-0-0 run they went on that made fans think that the dark ages are over for this team. While only going 7-9-4 since that streak, the city has a buzz around it for the first time since the team went to back to back conference finals in 2006 and 2007.
The biggest impact the Pegula’s have had since buying the team in 2011 was hiring Jason Botterill as general manager. After the failed experiment of Tim Murray as GM, Botterill has righted the ship and put the Sabres on the path of success. In 2017-2018 the Sabres looked ready to take the next step in the tank years but because of Murray’s miscalculations, Botterill has had to retool to get the Sabres to the point they are at now. After a brutal 2017-2018 season, the Sabres finally had some lottery luck (lost lottery pick in 2014 and 2015) and got the first overall pick and potential superstar defenseman in Rasmus Dahlin. While only 18, Dahlin has proven himself a dynamic player and arguably the Sabres best defensemen. Other than adding a franchise defenseman, Botterill stole Skinner and Sheary from Carolina and Pittsburgh respectively. While Sheary has had a couple injuries and still finding his game, the story is the chemistry that has developed between Eichel and Skinner. Eichel is tied for 10th in points and 5th in assists while Skinner is tied for 2nd in goals. This dynamic duo was the catalyst for the ten game win streak and basically the only source of offence for the team.
Going into this season there was cautious optimism about this team from fans, myself included. In the second season with Botterill and Housley at the helm of the team, there was a need for improvement. With an increase in talent on the roster and a year with Housley's system under their belt for most of the team, they looked like they were ready to take the next step. The low-risk moves of trading for Sheary, Skinner, Scandella, and Beaulieu, while signing Hutton to solidify the net has set up the Sabres for success. Unlike his predecessor, Botterill didn't pay a premium for these players and the depth of the team is better for it.
While the Sabres are far from a perfect team and losses to powerhouse team’s of Toronto, Nashville and Tampa proved they still need to add to the roster. The biggest hole to fix is the secondary scoring. With four first-round picks the next two years and pretty deep prospect pool, Botterill has a lot of assets to help improve his team. Based on his trade history and the current state of the team I do not see him giving up a lot for older rental players. Young cost controlled players are what this team needs to help build for future success.
Is this the season that the Sabres finally make the playoffs? Will the crippling despair that the fans have suffered through over? I personally think that this is the year. Even with a .500 record the rest of the season the Sabres should be on the playoff bubble. This year has been a wild ride and the fans passion for the team is back. Especially with the Bills taking a step back this year, the city of Buffalo needs a winning team for the crazy sports fans. While some fans have believed in the 10 game win streak too much, this roster is not ready to contend. This team has a young stud center and a dynamic defenseman who isn't even close to his potential, if you look back at past Stanley Cup winners you will find those pieces on that team. The Sabres still need a few more pieces to be a cup contender but there is no reason why they should not be making the playoffs consistently for the next decade.