What is Wrong with the Buffalo Sabres?

Last night, the Buffalo Sabres lost in a shootout to the last place Detroit Red Wings in front of their home crowd at KeyBank Center. The Sabres sit at 54 points in 54 games, which puts them at 6th in the Atlantic Division. We can assume the Sabres won’t be qualifying for the postseason for the ninth consecutive year, which is the longest active drought in the league. Despite the emergence of Jack Eichel as a bonafide, MVP caliber player, this team still has massive issues and a management staff that doesn’t appear to be addressing them.

 

For the Sabres, the issues start at the top of the organization in the owner’s box. Terry Pegula purchased the Sabres in 2011, since then the team has gone through six coaches and three general managers. Over the twelve seasons of data we have, the Buffalo Sabres have only registered two positive team scores (team score=all players AB scores combined for a given season), including a league-worst -97.98 team score in 2013-2014. Despite the fact that Pegula has invested heavily in the future of hockey in Buffalo, his inability to assemble a competent management group has taken a toll on the loyal fans of the team. Melody Martin, a 25-year-old teacher’s aid at Dodge Elementary School in Williamsville, NY, and coach at KidsPlay Youth Sports, recently released a parody to the popular song “Hey there Delilah”, encouraging Sabres GM Jason Botterill to make a move of some sort. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPgY_1MU9-M

 

Botterill’s trade record has been far from flawless, as he tends to acquire players that have been historically negative on the AB front and trade players that are historically positive. In fact, the players that Botterill has traded for recently that have been historically positive, are on the decline of their AB productivity. We used Cap Friendly’s trade history feature to analyze the significant moves Jason Botterill has made since June of 2017. The following table shows the players brought in and traded out by Botterill in that time span and what their career average AB score is.

IN OUT
Vladimir Sobotka (-0.62) (9-year sample) Alexander Nylander (+0.45) (1-year sample)
Tage Thompson (-3.49) (2-year sample) Tyler Ennis (-0.16) (10-year sample)
Jeff Skinner (+1.86) (9-year sample) Marcus Foligno (+0.43) (8-year sample)
Jimmy Vesey (-0.83) (3-year sample) Evander Kane (-1.97) (10-year sample)
Henri Jokiharju (-5.81) (1-year sample) Nathan Beaulieu (-1.30) (6-year sample)
Matt Hunwick (-2.35) (11-year sample) Ryan O’Reilly (+2.78) (10-year sample)
Jason Pominville (+2.23) (12-year sample) Marco Scandella (-1.57) (8-year sample)
Connor Sheary (+2.03) (4-year sample)  
Colin Miller (-2.23) (4-year sample)  
Brandon Montour (-1.91) (3-year sample)  
Marcus Johansson (+3.14) (9-year sample)  
Michael Frolik (+0.99) (11-year sample)  

 

This table shows that Botterill has brought in 6 negative players and 5 positive players and traded 3 positive players and 4 negative players. However, the difference in score is astounding. The combined career AB scores for the players brought in was -6.99, and the combined score for the departed players was -1.34. Despite the fact that there are five less players on the “Out” side of the chart, the difference is still significant. Clearly, the Sabres aren’t using the same metrics that we use, or metrics that contribute to on ice success, given their recent results. Perhaps the solution to these issues is hiring a new management group, as all signs point to Botterill not returning as Sabres GM next season. If he does return, the Sabres may have a President of Hockey Operations he will have to report too. We will be monitoring this situation closely and will examine whether or not the Sabres will choose to sell at the deadline, which is quickly approaching. More to come.

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