Wednesday, 4 April 2018

The Best Odds

The image to the left is one of Robin Lehner's best saves this season. All joking aside, the Sabres dropped a 4-2 decision to the Ottawa Senators tonight that guarantees they will finish in 31st in the NHL this season, giving them the best odds at the upcoming NHL Draft Lottery. To say this season has been horrendous for the Sabres would be stating the obvious. With them now having the best odds to win the first-overall pick at the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, there's hope on the horizon. At least, it looks like hope from this angle.

The Sabres, currently at 62 points, are now five points behind Ottawa after tonight's loss with two games to play. Mathematically, there's no way for them to climb past Ottawa, currently 30th overall, so that now guarantees that the Sabres have an 18.5% chance of winning the first-overall pick. Rasmus Dahlin as a Buffalo Sabre? It could happen.

Buffalo is literally the new Edmonton as they've earned the worst record in the NHL for the third time in five years. The only difference is that they've never selected first-overall despite their futility. In the other two times they finished dead last, the Sabres received the second-overall pick which became Sam Reinhart, after missing out on Aaron Ekblad, and Jack Eichel, after missing out on Connor McDavid. Third time's the charm, perhaps?

It's going to be a long off-season for GM Jason Botterill. Jack Eichel's salary jumps to $10 million next season while Kyle Okposo, Ryan O'Reilly, and Jason Pominville eat up another combined $19.1 million. Add in blue line pillars Rasmus Ristolainen, Zach Bogosian, and Marco Scandella at a combined $14.5 million, and that's a total of $43.6 million for 87 goals and 171 assists. For a team that has scored just 191 goals - and traded away 20 goals and 20 assists in Evander Kane - that's a significant chunk of your anemic offence for a significant chunk of money.

As it stands, the Sabres, who average an NHL-worst 2.35 goals-per-game, appear to be on course to finish as the only NHL team to fail to score 200 goals this season. They're a league-worst 11-25-5 at home, so it's not like having a little home cooking is going to remedy this problem either. No, this team is going to be bad for at least a few more years until they either develop some solid talent or acquire some through the draft, trades, and free agency. The unfortunate part is that they're most likely going to have to overpay to get players to come to Buffalo, so this may get worse before it gets better.

The good news is that Botterill worked under Ray Shero during the Pittsburgh heydays when they seemed to attract a ton of undrafted collegiate talent and young free agents, so maybe he can use some of his learnings to see who he can lure to Buffalo and Rochester in the hopes of developing some solid young talent to flank the likes of Eichel, O'Reilly, and Okposo.

The only thing I know is that Buffalo needs some serious help to get better. From the net out, nothing was good enough this season when it came to the squad that Phil Housley rolled out onto NHL ice surfaces this season. Getting Rasmus Dahlin will help if Buffalo has the odds work in their favour, but it's going to take more than one Swedish wunderkind to fix the Sabres.

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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