Reprinted with permission from hockeybuzz.com
Back in February, 2012, the Buffalo Sabres had pulled themselves up to a record of 27-27-7 and former GM Darcy Regier touted the fact that the team had made it to the .500-mark. There were question marks all around with that mention as .500 normally would mean and even number of wins and losses and with an odd number of games played (in this case, 61) it's impossible to reach an that equilibrium. if you include losses plus overtime shootout losses, you get a record of 27-34, which, of course, is no where near .500 hockey.
But, Regier wasn't looking at it that way. While doing his weekly evening radio program with WGR's Mike Schopp and the Bulldog, he was calculating .500 as he said, the NHL was doing it by taking the most possible points and dividing it by two. In the above instance, with 61 games played there were 122 points on the board. With two points for each win and one point for an overtime loss, the Buffalo Sabres had reached 61 points which represents the .500 mark in points-percentage.
With Schopp taking the straight-up wins/losses and Regier taking the points-percentage position, they would go on for a short while discussing numbers and semantics. What was lost in the conversation at the time was why a team who had a $75M payroll after a 2011 off-season spending spree was around .500 to begin with. At that time the Sabres were behind three teams for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and had not made it out of the first round of the playoffs in four years.
That Regier would pull out the .500 card in that context was a source of consternation amongst most Sabres fans. Regier spent oodles of new owner Terry Pegula's money on free agents only to ice yet another middling team and was trying to justify it with a semantic argument.
Fast forward to 2016.
After that failed 2011-12 season and a total dismantling of the team Regier built, as well firing Regier and most of his staff as well, the Sabres are trudging their way back to the .500 points-percentage mark this year. After starting the 2015-16 season slow and making it through numerous struggles throughout the first four months, Buffalo is only five points away from hitting that mark. Two wins and one OT/SO loss would give the team a 35-35-12 record for the season marking a major improvement over the prior season when they finished with a league-low 54 points.
Despite the fact that that the most number of wins they could get this year is 36, which constitutes finishing five games under .500 from a wins/losses perspective positivity reigns supreme at the foot of Washington Street. As it should.
Why the discrepancy?
Simply because .500 is subject to interpretation. Where the team is on the totem pole and where they're trending says it all.
Sabres fans have weathered two long years of basement-dwelling hockey, so having this team finish with 82 points is cause for celebration. Even in their losses this season the team has markedly improved in every area save for the standings and we have every reason to believe that the team will be looking to at least the .500-mark in wins/losses.
Then again, the season will bring with it it's own set of circumstances which will frame the conversation. But for now, I'll take .500 points-percentage.