Jake's Takes: Patience is key to watching Sabres play
By Jake Dehlinger
As we pass the midway point of October, the Buffalo Sabres sit in second-to-last place in the Atlantic Division and fans are not amused. This is understandable. A team which retooled its defense and looked to make great strides in both the front office and behind the bench should be better than they have been.
The team has been weak when it comes to secondary scoring and its power play has been abysmal, especially when it comes to allowing shorthanded goals. The team needs better from its second and third lines, which it finally received in the form of O’Reilly and Reinhart contributing goals in the OT loss in Vegas. The defense needs to contribute to the scoring too. This issue plagued them last season. The power play needs to take chances when it comes to scoring and that is completely understandable, but the shorthanded goals are not. And while all of this sounds like doom and gloom I’ve come to share some news: This will get better.
Take a look at the Toronto Maple Leafs last season. I know the last thing that the Buffalo sports fan wants to hear is comparisons to our rivals up north who are dominating at the moment. The Leafs started off last season 2-7-0. Look at the Sabres in that same time frame. They sit at 1-4-2 after seven games, and have the same amount of points. How did the Leafs season go? They lost to Washington in a hard-fought series which arguably slowed the Caps down enough to lose to the eventual Stanley Cup-winning Pittsburgh Penguins. The Leafs also had a fairly new coaching staff and front office.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Sabres this early in the season. Yes, we would like for Okposo, O’Reilly, Reinhart, Ristolainen, Scandella, and many others to score goals during the early parts of the season. Yes, we would like this team to come out hot out of the gate. What we need to do as fans – and I know this is hard – is to have a little more patience early on in the season.
Look, I love myself a good hot take. “Trade Reinhart,” “O’Reilly is a bum,” “Housley is clueless.” We’re seven games into the season and the team just took an early road trip out west. Yes, they didn’t do themselves any favors early on taking very few points. But what we can’t see is the comradery and relationships that they are building while on the road. They also faced very tough opponents. The Sharks and Kings are always good, they beat the Ducks which is fantastic, and you know what? Vegas is proving to be no slouch, either. 5-1 to start their first campaign ever? Good for them. But for Buffalo, playing a brand new system with a new defense and new coach is also tough to put together so quickly. These factors combine to make it hard for success early into the season.
The team is generating a lot of shots. Eichel and Kane are producing, and we look more exciting than in previous years. It is definitely hard to stomach losses early on when the team is supposed to be better than any other year that we have had Eichel. I can understand the disappointment in the rough start. But this team will continue to learn and adapt to the new system. They will get steady line mates over the next few weeks. They will come together as a team more and more. If this team ends hot rather than starting off the season playing out of the gates, no one is going to complain. This team is not as bad as people are making them out to be.
It can be hard to see Toronto having success and watch Matthews score incredible goals. But you know what? Eichel is producing better than Matthews. Toronto was much worse than the Sabres for so many years and they happened to cash out on Matthews with a lucky draft pick. They had Marner, Nylander, and Reilly in their system already. We have Nylander, Middelstadt, and Guehle developing and waiting. While their “guys” are already in the NHL, we have ours coming up soon. So while things can seem sad at the moment, the team is much better off than what is taken at face value.
Patience is the last thing that any Buffalo sports fan wants to hear. Whether it be the Bills or the Sabres, we are tired of being patient. I promise any Sabres fan, the time is coming soon. We have the right coach, the right front office, and the right generational player to lead us to many years of consecutive playoffs. There will be trades, players will develop, and the team will begin to understand the system and each other. Things are going to only get better. Although the rough start is hard to stomach, they will get better. When the team rattles off seven or eight in a row, who is going to complain? The Sabres are going to be good. Just be patient.
Editor's Note: Site editor Matt Birt is a former Buffalo Sabres employee and possibly a future one as well.