Thursday, April 5, 2018

Battle for the basement as either BUF or OTT will finish last this seaosn

Published by, 4-4-2018

The title to Bruce Garrioch penned article for the Ottawa Sun pretty much sums it up, "Draft lottery odds on the line as Senators face Sabres." Both teams are assured of finishing no higher than 30th this season with the odds of winning the lottery only slightly different between the two finishes. The odds of the last place team picking first overall has been set at 18.5% by the NHL while the 30th place team has a 13.5% chance.

If five percentage points doesn't seem like a lot, it really isn't. Picks two and three are also up for grabs in the NHL and that's where the odds start getting a little bit better overall for the last place team. According to, the last place team has a combined 35% chance of picking first or second overall as opposed to 26.5% for the 30th place team. And as we stretch it out, the 31st place team has about a 50/50 chance of landing a top-three pick while the 30th place team has a 38.6% chance of landing it the top-three, a 33.3% chance of picking fourth and a 27.9% chance of landing the fifth overall pick which means they only have a one in three shot of picking top-three.

Since we're on odds and the NHL Draft Lottery, let's give a spin of the wheel at  to see what we get this time:

1.  Arizona (presently 28th in the league)
2.  Vancouver (27th)
3.  Florida (18th)

The Buffalo Sabres, who are presently in last place, would be bumped to fourth and the Ottawa Senators, who are second-last, would draft fifth-overall.

It's a unanimous conclusion this year that Swedish defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is not only the best player in the draft, but that he's also looked at as a franchise cornerstone. Behind him in the second tier of prospect rankings are two wingers, Filip Zadina and Andrei Svechnikov. There may be a bit of a debate as to whether or not winger Brady Tkachuk is in that second tier with those two but if not, most place him at the top of the third tier very close to them.

What we're not too sure of is the gap between Tkachuk and those behind him in the rankings. Jeff Marek of sees defenseman Adam Boqvist as the fifth best player writing that Boqvist is "fantastic skater and playmaker who isn’t afraid to shoot. If you don’t end up with Dahlin, getting Boqvist is more than just a consolation prize."

When you're talking about "more than just a consolation prize" in comparison to a player who many have compared to Niklas Lidstrom and Erik Karlsson, said consolation prize could be a top-pairing defenseman with a high offensive ceiling. It would be very interesting to see what the Sabres would do if they landed fourth and had a decision to make between Tkachuk or Boqvist, the latter of which would fit perfectly into what Sabres head coach Phil Housley likes in a d-man while also filling a position of need in the prospect pool.

The focus tonight, however, is Buffalo's final home game of the season and it happens to be against the 30th place Ottawa Senators. It wouldn't be that much of a stretch to say that neither team will win again this season after tonight. Then again, Buffalo loses in regulation, they'll have secured last place and may actually win one (or maybe even two) of their final games which will be on the road against Tampa on Friday and Florida on Saturday.

Buffalo comes into tonight's game three points behind Ottawa for 30th place icing a team filled with rookies and young players looking to make an impact. The Sabres called up Alexander Nylander from Rochester yesterday and he'll be joining recently signed 19 yr. old Casey Mittelstadt in the lineup. Both were selected eighth overall in their respective drafts--Nylander in 2016 and Mittelstadt last year.

According to the Sabres, Mittelstadt was centering the third line with Nylander on his left and veteran Kyle Okposo on his right. The other lines were:


Interesting to note that Housley moved Evan Rodrigues on to Jack Eichel's line this game. The two played at Boston University together in 2015 and lead the Terriers to the NCAA Championship game that year. Eichel lead D-1 Men's Hockey in scoring that season with 71 points while Rodrigues was second with 61. Housley also kept intact the Ryan O'Reilly line with Scott Wilson on his left and Sam Reinhart on his right.

Perhaps that's what the top-nine will look like next season (sans Jason Pominville) and the Sabres are just giving their fans a little preview.

Rasmus Ristolainen and Marco Scandella have been back toghether as the Sabres top-pair on defense and that's where they'll be again. Rookies Brendan Guhle and Casey Nelson look to be on the second pairing while Nathan Beaulieu and Justin Falk round out the defense-corps.

It looks like Chad Johnson will be in net for Buffalo.


Tonight is Fan Appreciation Night in Buffalo as the Sabres play their final home game of the 2017-18 season and they're in a bit of a dilemma. As mentioned earlier, a regulation loss would guarantee a last place finish but it is Fan Appreciation Night, in which one might think that the Sabres would want to close out the home portion of the schedule with a win.

Housley was on WGR550 radio this morning for his weekly appearance and brought up putting forth a good effort for the home fans. "This game tonight is really meaningful in a lot of ways," Housley told hosts Howard Simon and Jeremy White. "One, we haven't really been very good at home, and number two, we've got to leave the Buffalo people with a good feeling after this game and three, it's Fan Appreciation Night.

"So we're going to look at this game as very meaningful and important game," continued Housley, "and we want to send the right message as our last game (of the season) comes to an end here in Buffalo."

It probably doesn't matter too much to many (most?) Sabres fans whether they win or lose at this point in the season, even with an assured fourth-place league finish on the line. Those in Sabreland have been yearning for good hockey all season and have gotten very little of that from a team that has a league-worst 11-24-5 home record.

The time for playing meaningful games for the fans was early in the season and this edition of the Sabres was awful through the 2017 portion of the season (5-10-2) while being outscored by a combined 51-34 margin. It's been even worse in 2018 but most fans had already packed it in and showed their emotion by generally displaying apathy at the morgue known as KeyBank Center.

However, as dismal as this year has been, there will be some good talent on display tonight wearing the Blue and Gold and it's a glimpse into what next year might have to offer.

Hopefully fans can at least appreciate that.

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