Published by hockeybuzz.com, 4-29-2017
After a major jump in their first season coming out of their rebuild, only the most optimistic of souls predicted the Buffalo Sabres in the 2017 NHL playoffs this year. Most pundits had the Sabres at or slightly above where they ended up finishing: 8th in the Atlantic Division, 15th in the Eastern Conference, 26th in the League.
But very few predicted the dysfunction that would engulf the team this seasons as GM, coach and players all played a big role in the Sabres finishing with less points than the prior season. Buffalo's roster had holes to begin with and when major injuries hit, former GM Tim Murray stood on the sidelines. Former head coach Dan Bylsma lost the room around mid-season into his second season with the club and the players feuded with the coach and amongst themselves through the latter part of the season as well.
The word 'former' in front of Murray and Bylsma is a sure indication that a) ownership expected more from this club and b) neither of them had any answers. For Terry and Kim Pegula, owners of the Buffalo Sabres, it wasn't good enough and they cleaned house just over a week ago. They made the move despite having no one in the hockey department ranked higher than assistant general manager and with a lot of crucial decisions to be made between now and mid-July.
Amongst items Buffalo's new GM will have on his docket is the expansion draft, NHL Entry Draft, free agent contract decisions, contract extension negotiations with Buffalo's other lottery picks, Sam Reinhart and Jack Eichel, decisions on players like Evander Kane and Robin Lehner and the start of free agency on July 1.
But there's one thing in the hockey department that even Russ Brandon could handle, the NHL Draft Lottery, which will be shown live tonight just prior to the Pittsburgh Penguins/Washington Capitals second round playoff game.
Buffalo will be looking for some luck that they didn't have in 2014 and 2015 when they ended up selecting second overall after finishing last in the league. Unlike in 2015 when the last place team could fall no more than one slot, the NHL now has the first three picks up for grabs.
This year the expansion Las Vegas Knights are in the lottery and will draft no lower than third which means the Sabres will not be in the Nos. 4 or 5 slot. Here are Buffalo's odds for where they could pick:
Representing Buffalo at the Draft Lottery tonight will be former Sabres enforcer and president of the Sabres Alumni Association, Larry Playfair. Perhaps if things don't go their way he'll have a flashback and deck somebody.
Am of the opinion that continuity demands the Sabres end up with the No. 2 pick. It's a small consolation for having things go against them in '14 and '15, and it's not like there's an Eichel waiting there for them, but having the opportunity to select either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier, the clear-cut top two prospects in the draft would/should/could be a nice symmetrical close to a dark era for the Sabres.
For those who have time to kill and/or are interested in testing their luck with the lottery, the NHL has a lottery simulator found here.
Test your luck.
Here's what I came up with on my one and only spin this morning:
You can believe it or not, but that's how it came out.