The Sabres have endured another forgettable, disappointing season in Buffalo and players aren’t happy about it.
After slumping to only 81 points in 2015-16, many expected the Sabres to take a step forward after signing Kyle Okposo and getting a full season from Jack Eichel and Robin Lehner. Unfortunately, that improvement hasn’t happened. Buffalo has arguably been worse in 2016-17, with just 33 wins and 78 points.
Eichel, undeniably Buffalo’s best player, admitted the losing sucked and said Buffalo had “another failed season.”
Jack Eichel: "It sucks. We didn’t make any improvement from last year. It’s another failed season." #Sabres
— Bill Hoppe (@BillHoppeNHL) April 6, 2017
Adding to the voices of frustration, captain Ryan O’Reilly admitted the lack of progress was “pathetic” and admitted “things needed to change.
“Being a leader, a lot of it falls on me, but to do it two years in a row like this and not go anywhere and not get any better is pathetic. It’s so frustrating and things have got to change. We’ve got three games left here and we’ve got to prove something at least to ourselves.”
Fortunately, the Sabres don’t have a bad foundation. Eichel, O’Reilly, Lehner, Sam Reinhart, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Evander Kane are all legitimate NHL players. However, the club’s porous defense let the club down.
Not only was nearly the entire defensive core below replacement level this season, but Zach Bogosian, Josh Gorges, Jake McCabe, and Dmitry Kulikov only combined for eight goals. That’s not good enough. Plus, the team’s offensive depth leaves a lot to be desired.
Eichel and O’Reilly should be pissed off, because the 2016-17 season was a complete bust. But it’s not all doom and gloom going forward, because most of the right pieces are there. It just falls on Tim Murray to improve the team’s depth and defense. If that can happen, there’s no reason the Sabres won’t be a playoff team next season.