Last month, I identified a now or never stretch over 16 games that would ultimately determine the fate of the Sabres season. Let’s take a quick dive into the results before diving into analysis.
In a stretch so crucial to make a substantial run and put themselves in position to fight for a wild card spot, the Sabres came away 8-7-1. The two losses to Ottawa and the overtime loss to Detroit really exacerbate the black eye that this 16 game span turned into.
The Sabres couldn’t afford to bat .500. Yes, they didn’t have Skinner, Olofsson and Ullmark for a healthy chunk of this stretch, but that goes to show the utter lack of quality forward depth management has set forth.
Time for a side rant, bear with me.
The only addition since the beginning of the season for this forward group is Michael Frolik, which deserves a trade grade of an F-. There’s nothing quite like one goal and one assist in the 15 games he’s played for Buffalo. It’s so fitting for this season.
It’s even worse than it sounds. His one goal is an empty netter. It was short handed, but Curtis Lazar did all the work to chase it down and get it to him. His one assist was a dump in that Lazar and more so Zach Bogosian, believe it or not, making a nice play against some atrocious Red Wings defense. That’s it. That’s his point production in 207 minutes and 10 seconds of on ice time over 15 games in a Sabres uniform (yes, I did the math).
Sabres management sent out Marco Scandella for Michael Frolik. Not only is that terrible asset management considering you’re trading from a place of immense weakness with the severe overcrowding on defense, but the alleged cap genius took on more salary. Frolik makes $300k more than Scandella.
Lastly, I highly doubt Frolik would want to resign here and frankly, I don’t want him to. So instead of keeping the draft pick they received for Scandella, an asset Buffalo will have for years, it’s flipped for an incredibly ineffective forward. If he’s not traded by Monday, he’s here for the rest of the season, then likely gone for good.
End rant, back to the previous 16 games and what lies ahead.
I really thought a decent run was coming after the Dallas game. They rattled off three wins in a row, two against playoff teams. Buffalo had a near perfect starting point for a run in this stretch of game, which included 11 home games.
A close loss against Nashville stung, but coming out and taking it on the chin from the Ottawa Senators marked the beginning of the end of a substantial run to raise the chances of playoffs this season.
Somehow, the Sabres still have a chance to make the playoffs. It may be a 2.3% chance (according to MoneyPuck), but it’s a chance. They would have to leapfrog both Florida, 8 points ahead of Buffalo and Toronto, 10 points ahead of Buffalo (Sabres have two games in hand) for the third playoff spot in the division.
That’s the easiest path for Buffalo.
Both wild card spots are occupied by Metro division teams Columbus (11 points up on Buffalo) and Carolina (10 points up).
Let’s be honest with ourselves though. There will always be optimists out there when it comes to the Sabres and I applaud you effort, but I’m with Howard on this one.
It looks like the Sabres will be getting some extra practice in on their short game while over half the league will start their journey towards the Stanley Cup.