Team: Buffalo Sabres
On the ice, the Sabres really turned a corner after two years of being historically awful. This year, they instead were just simply bad. What a team! What a turnaround!
Your Head Coach
Mike Babc- lol, jk you wish. You lost that, remember? And then you cried like babies about it for weeks. It's great. The salt from Babcock's decision is probably keeping Ontario's cracker industry thriving. Really got us out of that 8th place tie with Allied Biscuit and Table Time.
Anyway, your actual head coach is Dan Bylsma, who, like T-Pain and Bud Light Lime, peaked in 2009. He should be right at home in Buffalo, a city where both of those things are still amazingly popular. Disco Dan's track record since his feel-good Cup win in his rookie coaching half-season is....eh, well a little dicey.
2010: lost in second round
2011: lost in first round
2012: lost in first round
2013: swept in third round
2014: lost in second round
For those keeping score, that's four playoff series wins in five years, and zero wins past the second round. And that was with Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin! If he can't make perennial champions out of them, what hope does he have in Buffalo? This is a city that wouldn't know a champion if it stepped in its goal crease.
Your Starting Goalie
Robin Lehner, who after being acquired by the Sabres, decided to try out a new look called "Every North Tonawanda resident ever." Couldn't you just see this guy supplexing a wooden picnic bench at a Bills tailgate?
Lehner had a career season with a .924 SV%, but he only played 21 games. In fact, he's never played more than 36 games in a single season. Don't worry; I'm not sure that's a big criteria for a starting goalie or anything.
Backing up Lehner is....I had to look this one up. Anders Nilsson? Is that actually a real person? You're *sure* you aren't just trying to Taro Tsujimoto us all, right? The internet informs me that Nilsson does, in fact, exist, and put up a stellar .901 SV% in 26 games with the Oilers last season. You went to the OILERS for goaltending?! Geez. That's like getting your car at the dealership with all the recalled parts.
New Things That Suck
Surprise, surprise! The Sabres whiffed on Steven Stamkos! Can you blame him though? Would he really have wanted to spend the next seven years in a Siberian outpost with the demographics and intelligence of a Trump rally? I mean, I know Florida ain't exactly Mensa, but at least there, he could surround himself with mouthbreathers in warmer weather and pay less taxes.
They also swung and missed on future third-liner Jimmy Vesey, whom they gave up a draft pick to spend two months texting him "u up?" at 2 AM. Of course, they traded an asset to acquire the negotiating rights to a player who said he was going to test free agency from the beginning. That normally won't work out so well. Of course, here's what Buffalo's resident pisspants manbaby had to say about it:
The circus tents that surrounded Vesey were pitched outside of Buffalo. The Sabres never really had a chance in this race and, from an outside view, the amount of tampering that had to be taking place in recent weeks looks ridiculous.
Let’s not forget this important point: Vesey was not a free agent until midnight on Tuesday. He was Sabres property until then. But that didn’t stop agents Peter Fish and Peter Donatelli from doing numerous media interviews the last month espousing the virtues of what it would be like for Vesey to play in Boston, or in Chicago, or (hmmm) in New York.
That’s shameful stuff right there. The agents should know better.
Yes, Vesey was using his CBA rights to free agency by going through his four years of school. Fair enough. In this view, he should have signed with the Predators, the team that drafted him and spent a lot of time and money developing him. The Preds were giving him a top-three line spot last spring and into the Stanley Cup playoffs and he turned them down. They will be one of the top choices in the Western Conference this season. Turning down Nashville and signing with New York shows this wasn’t about winning at all.
Who does this kid think he is? He’s not Eric Lindros, who was a No. 1 overall pick. And save for Eichel and Johnny Gaudreau, the list of Hobey Baker winners the last 15 years is littered with mostly nobodies.
Oh, the saline! Yes, how dare a player exercise the rights to which he is contractually entitled? How dare he proceed to free agency as was perfectly allowable? How awful was he for talking to all the teams interested in his services? There was clearly an oversaturated market demand for him because he was able to hit free agency early under the rules of the CBA. BUT HE DIDN'T SIGN WITH MY TEAM! WHAT A PRIMA DONNA!
The Sabres did manage to land a big fish in Kyle Okposo for seven whole years! Though maybe you should ask Matt Moulson how that whole "sign a guy who played with Tavares and have him come to Buffalo" thing generally works out.
Also, Evander Kane is doing his darnedest to get the reputation of the worst Kane on the Buffalo bar scene. I didn't even think that was possible a year ago.
Things That Still Suck
What a likeable group! Let's take a look at that top line. At centre, you have a player in Ryan O'Reilly who takes the term "drive-thru" to a whole new meaning when he's inebriated. On right wing, you have Evander Kane, who thinks assaulting women is an acceptable response to being rejected. OOH WHICH ONE WILL WIN THE MASTERTON?
Defensively, you're still a tire fire. You just think Rasmus Ristolainen is good, which is correct, except for the part that involves actually playing defense. Beyond that? Wow; what a list. This is the saddest group of names I have ever seen:
And remember: you're stuck with Bogosian's bad contract and worse political takes just because you wanted to acquire your first line legal headache. The criminal charges and cap crippling are just a package deal, y'know?
What a joke of a city. It's like someone took the Confederacy and stuck them in Winnipeg. Your chief export is wings slathered in so much hot sauce to mask that the chicken is subpar. 75% of your economic revenue comes from Leaf fans looking for cheap hockey tickets, gas, and shopping. The greatest tourist destination in the entire city is Niagara Falls, which is no coincidence, because it's also THE WAY OUT OF TOWN. The reason your AHL team is in Rochester is because it's the only city that's more depressing than Buffalo; otherwise your minor league callups would never report.
Hockey-wise, your owner has dumped billions of dollars from fracking the entire state of Pennsylvania into both local sports teams, and has zero playoff games and a whole whack of bad contracts to show for it. You unironically make "1967" jokes to Leaf fans, but what exactly has your team won in its sad shell of an existence? Moral victories because you didn't like the rulebook in 1999 don't count.
Why You Might Not Suck
Jack Eichel is pretty good. Short of the Florida teams, the division is just bad enough that you have a shot. Also, your goal song is cool and/or literally the only redeeming thing about your tire fire of a franchise.